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Podcast 132 - Olivier Messiaen

In his recent review of the 32 CD box set by Deutsche Grammophon compiling the works of this most unique of composers, The Wire’s Rob Young drew an interesting analogy of Olivier Messiaen with the Spanish architect Gaudi. Both stood alone in their field in their achievements and their aesthetics, drawing upon organic and spiritual influences to carve out a singular place in history. Messiaen’s music displays a rich vein of variety, such as Birdsong, synaesthesia, exotic instrumentation and his deep felt Catholicism, emerging with a distinct style that many argue is outside of the Western tradition.

Unlike many European contemporaries, Messiaen lavished energy on grand and opulent music that reflected the devout Roman Catholic faith that he followed with an intensity that had been lacking in his predecessors. Although one of his most famous pieces, Quartet for the End of Time, was written within the confines of a Prisoner of War Camp after being captured by the Wehrmacht in 1940, Messiaen spent the majority of his life secluded from fame, living a somewhat simplistic life in Paris devoted to teaching and playing the Organ, an instrument that dominates his oeuvre.

His influence on the new generation of electronic composers that emerged after the war is telling - most of them studied under him at some point, including Stockhausen, Boulez and most notably Iannis Xenakis, of whom he told to ignore the Schoenberg influenced serialist teachings that were so radically popular at the time, and to incorporate what he knew of architecture and mathematics into his work. At a time when his students at the by now notorious Darmstadt school seemed to ready to reject his conservative ideas on harmony, Messiaen pulled a Cage-like joker out of the hat, announcing his love of Ornithology and how he would incorporate them into his work.

This 2 hour podcast cannot hope to diffuse the work of one of the 20th century’s greatest musical minds in any clarity, but is a chronology of excerpts of some of his most distinct and influential pieces, and was compiled with great distinction by Rich Garner, to whom I’m very grateful for his care and attention.


1.  0:00:00 - Le banquet céleste (1928)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

2.  0:06:51 - Un reflet dans le vent from Préludes (1929)
Peter Hill (Regis RRC 2056)

3.  0:12:41 - Transports de joie from L’Ascension pour orgue (1933–34)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

4.  0:17:15 - O sacrum convivium! (1937)
Danish National Radio Choir (Chandos CHA 9663)

5.  0:22:38 - Le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité from Les corps glorieux (1939)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

6.  0:30:08 - Regard de l’Esprit de joie from Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944)
Stephen Osborne (Hyperion CDA67351/2)

7.  0:38:46 - Jardin du sommeil d’amour from Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946–4Cool
Kent Nagano, Berlin Philharmonic (Teldec 8573-82043-2)

8.  0:49:24 - Mode de valeurs et d’intensités from Quatre études de rhythme (1949–50)
Peter Hill (Regis RRC 2056)

9.  0:55:18 - Les Mains de l’âbime from Livre d’orgue (1951)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

10. 1:03:15 - Soixante-Quatre durées from Livre d’orgue (1951)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

11. 1:13:45 - Oiseaux exotiques (1955–56)
Esa-Pekka Salonen, London Sinfonietta (Sony M2K44762)

12. 1:27:49 - Book 1: Le loriot from Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956–5Cool
Peter Hill (Regis RRC1108)

13. 1:36:50 - Le Parc de Nara et les lanternes de pierre from Sept Haïkaï (1962)
Pierre Boulez, The Cleveland Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon 453 4782)

14. 1:38:58 - Gagaku from Sept Haïkaï (1962)
Pierre Boulez, The Cleveland Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon 453 4782)

15. 1:42:37 - Je suis Celui qui suis from Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité (1969)
Oliver Latry (Deutsche Grammophon 471 4802)

16. 1:51:53 - Le Christ, lumière du Paradis from Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà… (1988–92)
Myung-Whun Chung, Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille (Deutsche Grammophon 439 9292)


Bleep43 podcast 132 - Olivier Messiaen

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Reader Comments (3)

FANTASTIC selection from one of Contemporary Music Masters: the organ works are mindblowing and the continuum mix is stunning...

February 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralessandro monti/unfolk

Superlative OM selection from rich garner and big props to bleep43 for putting this one up. Makes me wonder why I abandoned the organ, got into house & techno, and now I wonder why a love of the two the two can't coexist.. X

May 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercriticalbill

J'ai toujours ├ęcouter des podcasts quand je joue dans un roulette en ligne

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlfreda Endrizzi

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