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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

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This second Lenten organ post is also the second of a two-part series dedicated to the spiritual music of Olivier Messiaen, this one solely focused on the organ, with some selections featuring Messiaen himself.

After showing improvisation skills on the piano Messiaen studied organ with Marcel Dupré and inherited the tradition of great French organists (Dupré had studied with Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne, Vierne in turn was a pupil of César Franck). We will talk more about Dupre in a couole of weeks, but the following anecdote tells you probably everything you ever wanted to know about Messiaen the organist...

Dupré wrote that Messiaen, having never seen an organ console, sat quietly for an hour while Dupré explained and demonstrated the instrument, and then came back a week later to play Johann Sebastian Bach's Fantasia in C minor to an impressive standard.

Messiaen gained first prize in organ playing and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire in 1929.

From 1929, Messiaen regularly deputised at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris. The post became vacant in 1931 when organist Charles Quef died, and Dupré, Charles Tournemire and Widor among others supported Messiaen's candidacy. The appointment was confirmed in 1931, and he remained the organist at la Sainte-Trinité for more than sixty years.



Messiaen made the most of this appointment, using the venue to experiment and improvise, and these experiments in turn found their way in not only his organ works, but some of his more ambitious orchestral works.

Here is a short clip discussing Messiaen's old instrument at la Sainte-Trinite:



I find that, as much as Messiaen’s works for other instruments and for orchestra make use of his signature rythmic approach and exuberance, his organ pieces are closer to what his contemporaries Jehan Alain and Dupré were doing at the time – there is definitely a musical heritage that follows Franck, Vierne and Widor but with a more modern language. If there is anything of Messiaen that comes close to “readily accessible”, this is it.

PLAYLIST

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)


Le Banquet Celeste (The Celestial Banquet), I/1
Marcel Dupre plays the grand Cavaillé-Coll Organ at Église Saint-Sulpice (Paris, France)

L'Ascension (The Ascension) (arr. from orchestral piece), I/12b
Olivier Latry plays the Grand Organ (Willis, ref. Harrison & Harrison, Mander) at Royal Albert Hall (London, UK)

"Dieu parmi nous" (God Among Us) from La Nativité du Seigneur (The Nativity of Our Lord), I/14
Pierre Cochereau plays the grand Cavaillé-Coll Organ at Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

"Joie et clarté des corps glorieux" (Joy and Light of the Bodies in Glory) from Le Corps glorieux (The Glorious Body), I/20
Emanuele Battisti plays the Brombaugh organ at First Presbyterian Church (Springfield, IL)

"Les anges" (Angels) from La Nativité du Seigneur, I/14
Olivier Messiaen plays the grand Cavaillé-Coll Organ at la Sainte-Trinite (Paris, France) - Recorded in 1956

"La vierge et l'enfant" (Virgin and Child) from La Nativité du Seigneur, I/14
Olivier Messiaen plays the grand Cavaillé-Coll Organ at la Sainte-Trinite (Paris, France) - Recorded in 1956

Improvisations on the Gregorian theme Puer Nobis est
Olivier Messiaen plays the grand Cavaillé-Coll Organ at la Sainte-Trinite (Paris, France) - Recorded in 1985

Your Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7CF56D3DC20249E0

March 9th, 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage "Organ and Orchestra" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read our English and French commentary March 9 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.
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Updated Mar-06-2012 at 12:34 by itywltmt

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Classical Music , Musicians , Composers , Recorded Music

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