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Music Olivier Messiaen
by
Nigel Simeone

Introduction

Olivier Messiaen (b. 1908–d. 1992) was one of the true originals of 20th-century music: a composer whose innovative exploration of sonority, rhythm, and harmony was profoundly influenced by his religious faith and his love of nature. Critics welcomed his new works in the 1930s, such as Les offrandes oubliées for orchestra, La Nativité du Seigneur for organ, and Poèmes pour Mi, a song cycle celebrating love and marriage dedicated to his first wife, Claire Delbos. In 1931 he was also appointed organist of the church of La Trinité, and worked there for six decades. During his captivity as a prisoner-of-war in 1940–1941, Messiaen composed the Quartet for the End of Time, and on his return to France he took up a post teaching harmony at the Paris Conservatoire. One of the students in his first class was Yvonne Loriod, later to become his second wife. Over the next few years he produced Visions de l’Amen for two pianos, Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus for solo piano, and Trois petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine for piano, ondes Martenot, percussion, strings, and women’s voices. The commentaries that accompanied these works aroused some critical hostility, and the press became embroiled in “Le cas Messiaen” (“The Messiaen Affair”) in which critics disputed the value of Messiaen’s highly systematized musical language. In 1945 he began work on a trilogy inspired by the legend of Tristan and Isolde: the song-cycle Harawi, Cinq Rechants for twelve unaccompanied voices, and Turangalîla-Symphonie. At least part of the motivation for turning to the Tristan myth was the declining health of his wife, Claire. After the ten-movement extravaganza of Turangalîla, Messiaen embarked at the end of the 1940s on a period of experimentation, producing the Quatre études de rythme for piano and Messe de la Pentecôte for organ. He had been fascinated by nature since childhood, but his systematic study of birdsong began in the 1950s. After the rather literalistic Réveil des oiseaux for piano and orchestra, two masterpieces followed: Oiseaux exotiques for piano and large ensemble, and Catalogue d’oiseaux for solo piano. The 1960s saw a return to music inspired by Messiaen’s faith: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum for brass, woodwind and percussion, and the oratorio La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ. At the start of the 1970s he composed Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte-Trinité for organ and followed this with Des canyons aux étoiles . . . for piano and chamber orchestra, inspired by the landscapes and birds of Arizona and Utah, finished in 1974. The next nine years were devoted almost entirely to his vast opera Saint François d’Assise, first performed in 1983. Messiaen voiced doubts about his ability to compose anything after this, but produced another major organ work (Livre du Saint Sacrement), a brilliant set of piano miniatures (Petites esquisses d’oiseaux), and his valedictory orchestral work: Éclairs sur l’Au-Delàº.º.º.—a vision of Paradise enhanced by the songs of Australian lyrebirds. Messiaen’s reputation has continued to grow since his death in 1992, and his music still has the capacity to excite controversy and fierce partisanship.

General Overviews

The most detailed biography of Messiaen is Hill and Simeone 2005, and this was followed by Dingle 2007, an attractively written study of the composer’s life. Périer 1979, a study of the life and works remains a very useful introduction to the composer (in French). Griffiths 1985 examines Messiaen’s musical language and it includes interesting biographical information alongside discussion of the works. So, too, does Halbreich 2008, a greatly expanded version of his earlier study of Messiaen’s music. Johnson 2008 is a thorough and sympathetic study of Messiaen’s compositional techniques, while Nichols 1986 provides an eminently readable overview of his musical output. While Schlee and Kämpfer 1998 is—strictly speaking—an exhibition catalogue, it nevertheless contains a wealth of valuable documentary information about the composer not found elsewhere.

  • Dingle, Christopher. The Life of Messiaen. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    An up-to-date and readable account of Messiaen’s life, the result of research that is presented in lucid prose. Includes interesting material about Messiaen’s early years and the Occupation, and thoughtful commentary on his late works.

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  • Griffiths, Paul. Olivier Messiaen and the Music of Time. London: Faber & Faber, 1985.

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    A penetrating study of Messiaen’s musical language that was among the first to propose a different interpretation of his works from the composer’s own. Griffiths believes that a crucial element of Messiaen’s originality was the innovative way in which he treated the concept of musical time, and he also takes a sympathetic but more detached view of the religious element of Messiaen’s art.

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  • Halbreich, Harry. L’œuvre d’Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Fayard, 2008.

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    Written by a Messiaen pupil, the much expanded 2008 edition of Halbreich’s book (originally published in 1980) stands as the most comprehensive study of Messiaen’s musical works to have appeared in French.

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  • Hill, Peter, and Nigel Simeone. Messiaen. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2005.

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    This biography was the first to draw extensively on Messiaen’s private archives, including diaries, notebooks, and sketches. This detailed account of Messiaen and his works (especially their genesis and reception) is extensively illustrated with photographs and documents, many published for the first time. For the 2008 French edition (Olivier Messiaen, trans. Lucie Kayas, Paris: Fayard), the authors added a new chapter on Messiaen’s “pensée musicale” and a catalogue of works.

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  • Johnson, Robert Sherlaw. Messiaen. New exp. ed. with additions by Caroline Rae. London: Ominibus Press, 2008.

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    A study of Messiaen’s language and technique first published in 1975 that is particularly useful for its detailed examination of Messiaen’s use of modes and his approach to rhythm, along with discussion of Christian symbolism. The 2008 edition includes discussion of Messiaen’s final works by Caroline Rae.

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  • Nichols, Roger. Messiaen, 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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    A commentary on Messiaen’s works up to Saint François d’Assise, including perceptive and pithy discussion of the development of his musical language.

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  • Périer, Alain. Messiaen. Paris: Seuil, 1979.

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    A concise and well-written life and works, by one of Messiaen’s former pupils. It includes some useful biographical details, especially about Messiaen’s early years.

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  • Schlee, Thomas Daniel, and Dietrich Kämpfer, eds. Olivier Messiaen: La Cité céleste—Das himmlische Jerusalem. Über Leben und Werk des französischen Komponisten. Cologne: Wienand Verlag, 1998.

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    A magnificently illustrated catalogue devoted to Messiaen materials many of which had never been seen before, with detailed descriptions by Thomas Daniel Schlee. The first part of the book includes essays by Pierre Boulez, Elmar Budde, Chong-Hui Choe-Thomas, Père Jean-Rodolphe Kars, Brigitte Massin, Nguyen Thien Dao, Claude Samuel, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis. In German.

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Catalogues and Bibliographies

Benitez 2008 is a comprehensive summary of the literature by and about Messiaen with detailed annotations. For Messiaen’s compositions, Simeone 1998 provides bibliographical and other information about Messiaen’s published music while his catalogue in Hill and Simeone 2005 (see General Overviews) aims to include listings of all Messiaen’s known works.

  • Benitez, Vincent P. Messiaen: A Research and Information Guide. New York and London: Routledge, 2008.

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    An exhaustive guide to primary sources (including Messiaen’s articles and reviews, pedagogical writings, lectures, prefaces, interviews, and correspondence) and secondary literature (biographies, style studies, and discussions of individual works). The author provides concise and helpful summaries of some nine hundred items as pointers to further research and includes a detailed list of Messiaen’s musical works as an appendix.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. Olivier Messiaen: A Bibliographical Catalogue. First Editions and First Performances with Illustrations of the Title Pages, Programmes and Documents. Tutzing, Germany: Hans Schneider, 1998.

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    An illustrated catalogue of the first editions of Messiaen’s works that also gives details of first performances and scoring, composition dates, and other information relating to the publication, critical reception, and dissemination of Messiaen’s music. Appendices include the relevant printing records of Messiaen’s publishers.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “Catalogue des œuvres d’Olivier Messiaen par ordre chronologique.” In Olivier Messiaen. Edited by Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone, translated by Lucie Kayas, 541–569. Paris: Fayard, 2008.

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    A concise chronological catalogue including movement listings, composition dates, dedications, editions, first performances, and durations.

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Messiaen’s Writings

As well as his two major theoretical books (Technique de mon langage musical and the Traité), Messiaen wrote a large number of short articles and prefaces, three of which (on Dukas [Messiaen 1936], Stravinsky [Messiaen 1939], and Désormière [Messiaen 1966]) are listed here. Messiaen’s published speeches in Brussels and Notre-Dame (Paris) discuss his particular interests in birdsong, color, religious music, and the use of time and space (Messiaen 1960 and Messiaen 1978a). In 1978 he provided program notes on many of his own works for a major festival of his music (Messiaen 1978b). For comprehensive details of Messiaen’s writings, see Hill and Simeone 2005 (see General Overviews) and Benitez 2008 (see Catalogues and Bibliographies). Messiaen’s early articles are given complete in Broad 2005 (see Dissertations).

  • Messiaen, Olivier. “Ariane et Barbe-bleue de Paul Dukas.” Revue musicale 166 (May–June 1936): 79–86.

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    An important article in which Messiaen’s discusses the score of his former teacher’s opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue in terms that resonate with Messiaen’s later accounts of his own music, especially in terms of the relationship of music and color, particularly in the scene in Act I about precious stones. Messiaen suggests parallels between specific keys and colors.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. “Le Rythme chez Igor Stravinsky.” Revue musicale 191 (June 1939): 91–92.

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    A short but very interesting article in which Messiaen writes about rhythm in the two works of Stravinsky he most admires—Le Sacre du printemps and Les Noces—using terminology (including “personnages rythmiques” and deçi-talas) that he was later to apply to his own works.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. Conférence de Bruxelles: Prononcée à l’Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles en 1958. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1960.

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    A lecture in which Messiaen concentrates on space, time rhythm, and birdsong. It was given in Le Corbusier’s Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair, the space for which Varèse and Xenakis composed the Poème electronique. In French, German, and English.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. “Absence et présence de Roger Désormière.” In Roger Désormière et son temps. Edited by Denise Mayer and Pierre Souvtchinsky, 127–133. Monaco: Éditions du Rocher, 1966.

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    Messiaen expresses his profound admiration for Désormière in this memorial tribute, writing especially about Désormière’s performances of Messiaen’s own music (notably the premiere of Trois petites Liturgies and European premiere of Turangalîla), and also the conductor’s account of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. Messiaen also finds parallels between the approach to conducting by Désormière and Pierre Boulez.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. Conférence de Notre-Dame prononcée à Notre-Dame de Paris le 4 décembre 1977. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1978a.

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    A lecture in which Messiaen describes the ways in which music can express and enhance religious experience, and how music can evoke particular colors.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. “Olivier Messiaen analyse ses œuvres.” Hommage à Olivier Messiaen (1978b): 21–105.

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    “Brochure-programme” for the Messiaen Festival held in Paris in 1978 for which the composer provided extensive program notes on many of his works.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. Traité de rythme, de couleur et d’ornithologie. 7 vols. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1994–2002.

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    Messiaen’s vast Traité examines his theories and techniques, with a particular focus on rhythm. Messiaen provides detailed analyses of his own works, and those of other composers (much of Vol. 4 is devoted to Mozart, and Vol. 6 examines Debussy). A work of the greatest importance to anyone interested in how Messiaen viewed his musical language.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier. Technique de mon langage musical. 2 vols. New ed. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 2000.

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    First published in 1944 in two volumes and reissued in a single-volume edition that integrates the musical examples into the main text, this is an essential compendium of compositional devices and techniques found by Messiaen in earlier composers and developed by him in his own works up to Visions de l’Amen. Although explicitly not a composition treatise, Messiaen was criticized at the time the original publication for writing a musical recipe book. Leduc has also published an English-language version.

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  • Messiaen, Olivier, and Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen. Analyses des œuvres pour piano de Maurice Ravel. Paris: Durand, 2003.

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    Ravel is ignored in Messiaen 1994–2002, so it is useful to have these commentaries on Gaspard de la nuit, Ma Mère l’Oye, and Le Tombeau de Couperin, compiled by Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen from her husband’s annotated scores and her recollections of his analysis classes.

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Interviews

Messiaen gave interviews throughout his career. The earliest of any significance is in Bruyr 1933, while Goléa 1984 is valuable for the frankness with which Messiaen discusses his music. Much the most extensive of his interviews are those with Samuel, and Samuel 1976 and Samuel 1994 were both carefully reviewed and revised by the composer before publication. Massin 1989 and Rössler 1986 include some of the most spontaneous and revealing of Messiaen’s later interviews.

  • Bruyr, José. “Olivier Messiaen.” In L’écran des musiciens, seconde série. By José Bruyr, 124–131. Paris: José Corti, 1933.

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    An interview from 1931, just after Messiaen’s appointment at the Trinité, in which he is candid about current music, describing the slow movement of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto as “turning a phrase reminiscent of Fauré on a bad day into Massenet,” and Stravinsky’s Apollo as “like Lully with the wrong bass notes.”

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  • Goléa, Antoine. Rencontres avec Olivier Messiaen. Paris and Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine, 1984.

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    Based on a series of radio interviews conducted in the late 1950s, Goléa glosses Messiaen’s remarks with some useful and candid reflections of his own, considering the composer’s personality as well as his musical output. Originally published 1960 (Paris: René Julliard).

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  • Massin, Brigitte. Olivier Messiaen: Une poetique de merveilleux. Aix-en-Provence, France: Alinéa, 1989.

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    Based on a series of interviews with Messiaen, Massin shows a healthy reluctance to accept Messiaen’s conventional and oft-repeated responses about the religious inspiration that guided his life and infused his works. Massin draws some fascinating responses from the composer on his early organ works, on Saint François d’Assise and on broader subjects such as astronomy.

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  • Rössler, Almut. Contribution to the Spiritual World of Olivier Messiaen. Duisburg, Germany: Gilles und Francke Verlag, 1986.

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    Includes interviews and public discussions with Messiaen and texts by him. Several of the interviews draw spontaneous responses from the composer, especially his discussion of Saint François d’Assise a few days after the world premiere, and his reflections on the “authentic” performance of his organ works on unfamiliar instruments, on religious music and even on La Jeune France (“I wasn’t in complete agreement with that manifesto.”). Originally published as Beiträge zur geistigen Welt Olivier Messiaens. Duisburg, Germany: Gilles und Francke, 1984.

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  • Samuel, Claude. Conversations with Olivier Messiaen. Translated by Felix Aprahamian. London: Stainer and Bell, 1976.

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    Originally published in French as Entretiens avec Olivier Messiaen (Paris: Belfond, 1967). The first of Messiaen’s books of conversations with Claude Samuel, this volume is a mine of information about Messiaen’s views on his own works up to Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, about the music that most influenced him, and about aspects of his life (including some charming reminiscences of his childhood) that Messiaen cared to make public.

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  • Samuel, Claude. Olivier Messiaen: Music and Color. Translated by E. Thomas Glasow. Portland, OR: Amadeus, 1994.

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    Originally published in French as Olivier Messiaen: Musique et couleur, the second of the Messiaen–Samuel books is a much revised and expanded version of the first (Samuel 1976), including several new conversations, among them a discussion of music and color and a detailed examination of Saint François d’Assise.

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  • Samuel, Claude. Permanences d’Olivier Messiaen: Dialogues et commentaires. Arles, France: Actes Sud, 1999.

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    A revised reprint of the interviews presented in Olivier Messiaen: Musique et couleur, now interspersed with Samuel’s reminiscences of the composer and the correspondence between them during the last two decades of Messiaen’s life.

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Specialized Monographs

Specialized studies include Boivin 1995, an exhaustive examination of an aspect of Messiaen’s work that had been largely overlooked—his long career as a teacher. Bruhn’s three books each take groups of works: two piano cycles (Bruhn 2007), the “Tristan” trilogy and related songs (Bruhn 2008a), and La Transfiguration and Saint François d’Assise (Bruhn 2008b), and examine these from both a theological and musical perspective. Reverdy 1978 and Reverdy 1988 are concise analytical commentaries on the piano and orchestral works. Van Maas 2009 and Shenton 2008 both consider Messiaen from thoughtful and specifically theological perspectives. Rostand 1957, a brief survey, is still of value, not least because of the candor with which it explores the author’s evolving view of Messiaen’s music.

  • Boivin, Jean. La classe de Messiaen. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1995.

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    An essential study of Messiaen the teacher, from his earliest classes at the Schola Cantorum to his last year at the Paris Conservatoire in 1978. The author includes a transcription of Messiaen’s class on Debussy Pelléas et Mélisande. Appendices list the names of those who attended his classes and the repertoire studied.

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  • Bruhn, Siglind. Messiaen’s Contemplations of Covenant and Incarnation: Musical Symbols of Faith in the Two Great Piano Cycles of the 1940s. New York: Pendragon, 2007.

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    Bruhn considers Visions de l’Amen and the Vingt Regards in the context of the religious climate in France, and suggests a “theology of rhythm, colour and birdsong” before detailed discussions of each work from a musical and theological perspective.

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  • Bruhn, Siglind. Messiaen’s Explorations of Love and Death: Musico-poetic Signification in the Tristan Trilogy and Three Related Song Cycles. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon, 2008a.

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    A wide-ranging musical, aesthetic, and theological discussion and analysis of the works in the “Tristan” Trilogy along with Poèmes pour Mi, Chants de terre et de ciel, and Trois petites liturgies.

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  • Bruhn, Siglind. Messiaen’s Interpretations of Holiness and Trinity: Echoes of Medieval Theology in the Oratorio, Organ Meditations, and Opera. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon, 2008b.

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    This book begins with an examination of Messiaen’s reception of Thomas Aquinas and his use of birdsong, numbers, and rhythmic permutations as a prelude to detailed accounts of La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ, Méditations sur le Mystère de la SainteTrinité, and Saint François d’Assise.

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  • Reverdy, Michèle. L’œuvre pour piano d’Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1978.

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    Reverdy discusses Messiaen’s piano works in language that recalls the composer’s own approach—not surprising given that Reverdy was one of his pupils. She also provides clear accounts of the musical progress of each work, and draws attention to innovative aspects of Messiaen’s writing for piano.

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  • Reverdy, Michèle. L’œuvre pour orchestre d’Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Alphonse Leduc, 1988.

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    In her discussion of the orchestral works Reverdy describes the works in similar terms to Messiaen’s own, while writing with greater objectivity. She also writes commentaries on the musical progress of each work, and discusses unusual instrumental techniques.

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  • Rostand, Claude. Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Ventadour, 1957.

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    Rostand had been one of Messiaen’s harshest critics in the mid-1940s but had a change of heart as the composer’s musical language became increasingly adventurous. A snapshot of informed critical opinion about the composer in the 1950s, this little book was important in confirming Messiaen as a vital force in French musical life.

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  • Shenton, Andrew. Olivier Messiaen’s System of Signs: Notes towards Understanding His Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Using the Meditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité as his central focus, Shenton explores Messiaen’s use of “communicable language” as a means of expressing words and concepts. In this very original study, Shenton also confronts the problems for listeners in grasping theological concepts expressed through a complex system of musical signifiers.

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  • van Maas, Sander. The Reinvention of Religious Music: Olivier Messiaen’s Breakthrough toward the Beyond. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.

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    Van Maas proposes a rethinking of Messiaen’s music based on careful analysis and considers why Messiaen’s music has a religious status that amounts to much more than the use of religious concepts and gestures. He examines Messiaen’s claim that religious music can represent a “breakthrough toward the beyond” in the context of the musical theology of Hans Urs von Balthazar and others.

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Symposia and Collected Essays

The growth of Messiaen research has seen the publication of several collections of essays on his life and music. For discussion of his compositions, Hill 1995 provides an excellent introduction, while Olivier Messiaen, homme de foi (Eglise de la Trinité 1995) has a specific focus on the organ works. Metzger and Riehn 1982, Massip 1996, Dingle and Simeone 2007, and Sholl 2007 include biographical, musicological and analytical essays. Bongrain 2008 concentrates on Messiaen’s teaching at the Paris Conservatoire, while Shenton 2010 considers theological aspects of his music. Lesure and Samuel 2008 is a centenary tribute enhanced by important iconographical material and reminiscences by friends and colleagues.

  • Bongrain, Anne, ed. Messiaen 2008: Messiaen au Conservatoire. Paris: Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, 2008.

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    As well as centenary tributes from some distinguished pupils, this book includes an extensive iconography of Messiaen’s classes at the Paris Conservatoire, descriptions of annotated scores and other materials in his library, lists of pupils, and a chronicle of his teaching career. Contributors include Anne Bongrain, Dominique Hausfater, and Lucie Kayas.

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  • Dingle, Christopher, and Nigel Simeone, eds. Olivier Messiaen: Music, Art and Literature. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Essays on Messiaen’s relationships with other artists, his teaching, writings, harmony, Saint François d’Assise, and ballet projects. The book also includes a French–English text of L’Ame en bourgeon by Messiaen’s mother Cécile Sauvage. Contributors: Stephen Broad, Christopher Dingle, Robert Fallon, Edward Forman, Allen Forte, Gareth Healey, Peter Hill, Père Jean-Rodolphe Kars, Caroline Potter, Matthew Schellhorn, Andrew Shenton, Nigel Simeone, Jacques Tchamkerten, and Philip Weller.

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  • Église de la Trinité. Olivier Messiaen, homme de foi: Regard sur son œuvre d’orgue. Paris: Trinité Média Communication, 1995.

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    Essays on the alliance of art and faith as reflected in Messiaen’s organ music, supplemented by tributes from friends, pupils, and colleagues. Contributors: Michel Fano, Jon Gillock, Olivier Glandaz, Naji Hakim, Harry Halbreich, Père Pascal Ide, Père Jean-Rodolphe Kars, Père Francis Kohn, Daniel-Lesur, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Olivier Messiaen, René de Obaldia, Etienne Pasquier, Jacques Penot, and Claude Samuel.

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  • Hill, Peter, ed. The Messiaen Companion. London: Faber & Faber, 1995.

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    A comprehensive survey of Messiaen’s works by genre, with an extended “interlude” considering color, theology, birdsong, Messiaen’s teaching, and an interview with Yvonne Loriod. Contributors: George Benjamin, Jonathan W. Bernard, Pierre Boulez, Jean-Louis Coignet, Christopher Dingle, Paul Griffiths, Malcolm Hayes, Peter Hill, Jane Manning, Iain Matheson, Wilfrid Mellers, John Milsom, Anthony Pople, Richard Steinitz, Malcolm Troup, and Gillian Weir.

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  • Lesure, Anik, and Claude Samuel. Olivier Messiaen: Le livre du centennaire. Lyon, France: Symétrie, 2008.

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    Essays and contributions about aspects of Messiaen’s life and works by his friends, colleagues and pupils including Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Philippe Albéra, Gilbert Amy, Pierre Boulez, Myung-Whun Chung, Michel Fano, Peter Hill, Betsy Jolas, Olivier Latry, and Loïc Mallié, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, François-Bernard Mâche, Claude Samuel, and Gianfranco Vinay. The book is notable for its illustrations, many of them in color, and including beautiful facsimiles of rare letters and manuscripts.

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  • Massip, Catherine. Portrait(s) d’Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996.

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    Essays on Messiaen’s life, theology, rhythm and color, birdsong transcriptions, Saint François d’Assise, and an important study of his music for piano by Loriod. Includes numerous photographs and facsimiles. Contributors: Lionel Couvignou, Père Pascal Ide, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, Alain Louvier, Catherine Massip, and Jacqued Penot.

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  • Metzger, Klaus, and Rainer Riehn, eds. Olivier Messiaen. Musik-Konzepte 28. Munich: Edition Text+Kritik, 1982.

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    Collection of essays including a lengthy study of depictions of the Abyss in Messiaen’s music, his interest in non-Western music, and analyses of the Cinq Rechants, Livre d’orgue and Oiseaux exotiques. Contributors: Oskar Gottlieb Blarr, Clytus Gottwald, Olivier Messiaen, Aloise Michaely, Rainer Riehn, Gerd Zacher, and Hans Rudolf Zeller.

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  • Shenton, Andrew, ed. Messiaen the Theologian. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

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    Essays on Messiaen’s theological preoccupations, his library of religious literature, his relationships with theologians, and specifically theological elements in individual works. Contributors: Yves Balmer, Peter Bannister, Vincent P. Benitez, Luke Berryman, Cheong Wai Ling, Robert Fallon, Karin Heller, Sander van Maas, Douglas Shadle, Andrew Shenton, Stephen Schloesser, Robert Sholl, and Nigel Simeone.

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  • Sholl, Robert, ed. Messiaen Studies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Essays on a range of Messiaen topics, from his wartime diaries to consideration of his musical aesthetics and his use of birdsong, the originality of his musical forms, the documentary significance of his recordings and an overview of his significance in 20th-century music. Contributors: Amy Bauer, Robert Fallon, Stefan Keym, Sander van Maas, Paul McNulty, Andew Shenton, Robert Sholl, Nigel Simeone, Jeremy Thurlow, and Arnold Whittall.

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Short Writings to 1992

Writings about Messiaen from important moments in his career provide vivid portraits of the composer as viewed by his contemporaries. The debate known as “Le cas Messiaen” produced lively and opposing polemics from Bernard-Delapierre 1945 and Gavoty 1945. Brothier 1954 is a pamphlet on La Jeune France while Croizard 1962 is a magazine profile that gives a more informal impression of Messiaen in the 1960s than his interviews with Samuel and others (see Interviews). Gengenbach 1946 is unusual for its time, discussing Messiaen in terms of his links with Surrealism. Hodeir 1975 gives a fascinating view of Messiaen’s work from a skeptical critic at the start of the 1960s, while Pierre Messiaen’s 1944 memoirs contain an evocative passage about his famous son’s return from prisoner-of-war camp.

  • Bernard-Delapierre, Guy. “Olivier Messiaen.” Confluences (June–July 1945): 551–556.

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    A passionate defense of Messiaen’s works from the early 1940s published at a time when “Le cas Messiaen” was raging in the French musical press.

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  • Bernard-Delapierre, Guy. “Souvenirs sur Olivier Messiaen.” Formes et Couleurs (Lausanne) 3–4 (1945): unpaginated, 10 pp., incl. facsimiles of pages from Vingt Regards and Visions de l’Amen.

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    A lively article by a man who had first encountered Messiaen as a fellow prisoners of war and, a few years later, acted as the host of Messiaen’s private classes for selected pupils (including Loriod and Boulez). Bernard-Delapierre writes touchingly about their first meeting, and with passionate enthusiasm about his most recent music and its generally favorable reception.

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  • Brothier, Jean Jacques. La Jeune France: Yves Baudrier, André Jolivet, Daniel-Lesur, Olivier Messiaen. Paris: Les Amis de la Jeune France, 1954.

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    A pamphlet printed in an edition of two hundred numbered copies, signed by the four composers, that provides some useful documentary information about La Jeune France, including details of early concerts and a version of the group’s manifesto.

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  • Croizard, Maurice. “Paris siffle et applaudit le même soir Olivier Messiaen.” Paris-Match 674.10 (March 1962): 62–71.

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    An entertaining popular profile written at time of the controversial Paris premiere of Chronochromie and illustrated with several fine color photographs in which Messiaen poses in a tree with birds, and in front of paintings by Robert Delaunay (loaned for the occasion by Sonia Delaunay, as Messiaen later had to explain to the tax authorities).

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  • Gavoty, Bernard. “Musique et mystique: Le ‘cas’ Messiaen.” Les Etudes (October 1945): 21–37.

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    Gavoty’s review of the first performance of the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus was the first shot in “le cas Messiaen” and this polemic from later in the same year attacks Technique de mon langage musical and Messiaen’s commentaries on his musical works, even going so far as to question Messiaen’s sincerity.

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  • Gengenbach, Ernest. “Messiaen ou le surréel en musique.” La Revue musicale de France 15 (April 1946): 1–3 and 18.

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    An article of historical interest by an erstwhile Surrealist who describes what he sees as features of surrealism in Messiaen’s music, especially in the Trois petites Liturgies.

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  • Hodeir, André. Since Debussy. Translated by Noel Burch. New York: Da Capo, 1975.

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    Originally published in French as La musique depuis Debussy in 1961. A lively and critical account of Messiaen up to about 1960. While Hodeir admires Messiaen’s rhythmic and harmonic innovations, he has serious misgivings about Messiaen’s handling of form, which he finds overreliant on “poverty-stricken, outmoded” structures.

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  • Messiaen, Pierre. Images. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1944.

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    The reminiscences of Messiaen’s father, notable for how little Pierre says about his elder son. One passage, however, describes Olivier’s return to Paris from captivity, with a moving description of Paris under German Occupation.

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Short Writings since 1992

Messiaen has been the subject of a great many articles, and those below have been chosen because they cover specific aspects of his life and work in greater depth. Anderson 2009 is a particularly fascinating examination of Jolivet’s influence on Messiaen. Dingle 2007 looks at the importance of the earliest orchestral works while Fulcher 2002 also considers the 1930s, but from the point of view of Messiaen’s ideology rather than his music. Goehr’s 1998 eloquent reminiscence of Messiaen’s class is skeptical but affectionate. Simeone 2000, Simeone 2002, Simeone 2004, and Simeone 2008 are documentary studies that concentrate on different facets of Messiaen’s career, while Sprout 2004 is a consideration of how Messiaen relates to the cultural politics of the Vichy regime.

  • Anderson, Julian. “Messiaen and the Notion of Influence.” Tempo 63.247 (January 2009): 2–18.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0040298209000011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An article that identifies the powerful and very specific influence of André Jolivet’s early works, especially Mana, on the development of Messiaen’s harmonic language.

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  • Dingle, Christopher. “Forgotten Offerings: Messiaen’s First Orchestral Works.” Tempo 241 (July 2007): 2–21.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0040298207000174Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A reassessment of the Messiaen’s output in the early 1930s when he was often dubbed an “organist-composer” but in fact concentrated on orchestral works: Les offrandes oubliées, Le Tombeau resplendissant and Hymne au Saint Sacrement.

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  • Fulcher, Jane. “The Politics of Transcendence: Ideology in the Music of Messiaen in the Thirties.” Musical Quarterly 86.3 (Fall 2002): 449–471.

    DOI: 10.1093/musqtl/gdg015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thought-provoking article that considers whether Messiaen’s music from the 1930s transcends its ostensibly religious subject matter in order to express a political ideology. Fulcher also proposes that the “new spiritual art” called for by the Groupe Jeune France embodied a politically centrist position—paralleled by the views of nonconformist intellectuals—but not a neutral one.

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  • Goehr, Alexander. “The Messiaen Class.” In Finding the Key: Selected Writings. Edited by Derek Puffett, 42–57. London: Faber & Faber, 1998.

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    Goehr was in Messiaen’s class in the mid-1950s and this very entertaining reminiscence includes fascinating details of Messiaen’s teaching, about which Goehr remains refreshingly skeptical.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “Messiaen and the Concerts de la Pléiade: ‘A Kind of Clandestine Resistance against the Occupation.’” Music & Letters 81.4 (November 2000): 551–584.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/81.4.551Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A documentation of Messiaen’s involvement with the Concerts de la Pléiade, notably the commission and first performance of Visions de l’Amen and Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine, publishing the correspondence between Messiaen and Denise Tual (organizer of the concerts) and tracing the genesis and reception of two major works composed and commissioned during the German Occupation of Paris.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “Group Identities: La Spirale and La Jeune France.” Musical Times (Autumn 2002): 10–36.

    DOI: 10.2307/1004548Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Extensive documentation of the concerts of La Spirale and La Jeune France, both of which featured important early performances of Messiaen’s music. Includes detailed listings of the concerts given by both groups.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “‘Chez Messiaen tout est prière’: Messiaen’s Appointment at the Trinité.” Musical Times (Winter 2004): 36–53.

    DOI: 10.2307/4149128Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Messiaen’s campaign to secure his appointment as titulaire of the Église de la Trinité when he was only twenty-two years old is documented through his correspondence with the Parish Priest, and letters of support from the likes of Tournemire, Widor, André Marchal, and Maurice Emmanuel. This article also considers Messiaen’s activity as organist at La Trinité over the next six decades.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “Messiaen, Koussevitzky and the USA.” Musical Times (Winter 2008): 25–44.

    DOI: 10.2307/25434570Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article documents Serge Koussevitzky’s early Messiaen performances in Boston, and publishes their surviving correspondence, notably about the commission of the Turangalîla-Symphonie. It discusses Messiaen’s visit to Tangelwood in 1949 and includes his letters to Leonard Bernstein before the première of Turangalîla.

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  • Sprout, Lesile A. “Messiaen, Jolivet, and the Soldier–Composers of Wartime France.” Musical Quarterly 87.2 (Summer 2004): 259–304.

    DOI: 10.1093/musqtl/gdh012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A fine article about the relationship of Messiaen, Jolivet, and other composers to the Vichy regime and the French musical public. Sprout examines the early reception history of the Quartet for the End of Time, challenges the view that it is a reflection of Messiaen’s captivity, and includes a very useful appendix of early reviews.

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Studies of Individual Works

Specific works by Messiaen are the subject of individual monographs and articles. Turangalîla is considered in Schweitzer 1982 and its early reception history in Simeone 2002. The commission and genesis of La Transfiguration is explored through correspondence and documents in Simeone 2004, while Saint François d’Assise is examined in Saint François d’Assise: Messiaen and Keym 2002. His most famous piece of chamber music, the Quartet for the End of Time, is the subject of one study that is broadly analytical (Pople 1998) and another that explores the work’s context in detail (Rischin 2006). Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques received a wide-ranging contextual and analytical study in Hill and Simeone 2007.

  • Fallon, Robert. “Birds, Beasts and Bombs in Messiaen’s Cold War Mass.” Journal of Musicology 26.2 (Spring 2009): 175–204.

    DOI: 10.1525/jm.2009.26.2.175Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the Messe de la Pentecôte for organ in which the author proposes an interpretation of the work as a musical dramatization of the Cold War threat of nuclear apocalypse. Messiaen contrasts a motif that he called the ‘Beast of the Apocalypse’ with evocations of birdsong that represent peace. Fallon argues that the work can be viewed as a warning against nuclear catastrophe.

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  • Hill, Peter, and Nigel Simeone. Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    This study begins by considering the status of contemporary music in post-war Paris and the subsequent foundation of the Domaine musical. A detailed examination of Messiaen’s birdsong notations, and his transformation of these, leads to an analysis of the work itself, its first performance, critical reception, publication, and interpretation. A CD includes examples of Messiaen’s development of birdsong motifs and a recording of the world premiere of the whole work.

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  • Keym, Stefan. Farbe und Zeit: Untersuchungen zur musiktheatralen Struktur und Semantik von Olivier Messiaens Saint Francois d‘Assise. Hildesheim, Germany: Georg Olms Verlag, 2002.

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    An extensive study of the opera from the perspectives of its musical structure and its theology, drawing these together through an analysis of Messiaen’s use of color and time to produce a vast piece of sacred music theatre. The appendices include reproductions of some of Messiaen’s sketches.

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  • Pople, Anthony. Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du Temps. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Beginning with a discussion Messiaen’s early career and the work’s genesis, this monograph by a noted British analyst is of most value for the illuminating commentaries on each movement, exploring the ways in which these make use of particular techniques or preoccupations, including rhythmic innovations, color, the use of birdsong, and Messiaen’s approach to form.

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  • Rischin, Rebecca. For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet. Rev. ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006.

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    First published in 2003, this complementary study to Pople 1998 is a detailed and revealing investigation of the circumstances surrounding the composition and first performances of the Quartet for the End of Time including important information about musical life in Stalag VIII-A at Görlitz, and interviews with the original performers.

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  • Saint François d’Assise: Messiaen.” L’avant-scène opera, Opéra d’aujourd’hui 4 (1992).

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    Includes an interview from January 1992 in which Jean-Christophe Marti asked Messiaen about Saint François d’Assise in the context of his whole musical output. Of particular interest are his comments on the dramatic structure of the opera, and the remark that he thought he had nothing more to say musically after Saint François until he was inspired to write the Livre du Saint Sacrement.

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  • Schweitzer, Klaus. Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie. Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1982.

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    A concise German-language study of the Turangalîla-Symphonie that includes useful information on the chronology of the work’s composition as well as analyses of each movement.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “An Exotic Tristan in Boston: The First Performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie.” In King Arthur in Music. Edited by Richard Barber, 105–125. Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2002.

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    A consideration of the Boston and New York premieres of Turangalîla in 1949, including many of the original reviews from US newspapers, and a comparison of Messiaen’s different program notes for the work.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “Towards ‘un succès absolument formidable’: The birth of Messiaen’s La Transfiguration.” Musical Times (Summer 2004): 5–24.

    DOI: 10.2307/4149144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of the genesis of La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ through the correspondence between Messiaen and Maria Madalena de Azeredo Perdigaõ at the Gulbenkian Foundation (which commissioned the work). Messiaen’s unusually detailed letters reveal much about his evolving conception of his largest work for chorus and orchestra.

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Dissertations

Messiaen has been the subject of a number of doctoral dissertations since the composer’s death. A few of the more important ones are listed below. Balmer 2008 considers Messiaen’s composing methods as revealed through his sketches for Visions de l’Amen while Benitez takes as his focus the opera Saint François d’Assise, providing a detailed musico-dramatic analysis that sheds new light on Messiaen’s musical language. Boswell-Kurc 2001 provides the first comprehensive documentation of “Le cas Messiaen.” Broad 2005 is a detailed study of Messiaen’s early years as a composer and he also brings together the complete texts of Messiaen’s articles from the 1930s. Dingle 2000 is the most detailed study so far of Messiaen’s late works. Fallon 2005 considers Messiaen’s “bird style” using innovative techniques and drawing on a broad range of literature. Sholl 2003 examines Messiaen’s music from theological and aesthetic perspectives. Sprout 2000 includes a good deal of valuable information on Messiaen in the context of a broader study of one of the most fascinating decades (1936–1946) in French cultural life. Many other dissertations are listed in Benitez 2008 (cited under Catalogues and Bibliographies). Dissertations from US universities and some others can usually be obtained via UMI Microfilm or ProQuest. Others may be obtained via interlibrary loans.

  • Balmer, Yves. “Edifier son œuvre: Genèse, mediation, diffusion de l‘œuvre d‘Olivier Messiaen.” Phd diss., Université Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3, 2008.

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    A thesis that presents innovative research on the sketches and other manuscript sources of Messiaen’s music—with a particular focus on the autograph material for Visions de l’Amen—in order to provide an answer to the question “Comment compose Messiaen?” This important study of Messiaen’s working methods is followed by an examination of his self-promotion, encouraging others to take up his works.

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  • Benitez, Vincent. “Pitch Organization and Dramatic Design in Saint François d’Assise of Olivier Messiaen.” Phd diss., Indiana University, 2001.

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    This thesis analyzes how Messiaen’s pitch organization is used as an integral part of the drama, and also provides an overview of the work’s religious sources and musical language.

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  • Boswell-Kurc, Lilise. “Olivier Messiaen’s Religious War-Time Works and Their Controversial Reception in France (1941–1946).” PhD diss., New York University, 2001.

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    A detailed examination of the controversy surrounding Messiaen in the mid-1940s and much the most thoroughly documented study of “le cas Messiaen,” with extensive quotations from reviews and articles published at the time.

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  • Broad, Stephen. “Recontextualising Messiaen’s Early Career.” D.Phil. thesis, University of Oxford, 2005.

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    Broad examines Messiaen’s early career and places him as an eager participant in the mainstream of French musical life, convincingly challenging the myth (rather encouraged by Messiaen) that he was a man apart. This thesis documents a musician who was actively engaged with the aesthetic questions and includes the complete texts (in French, and in English translations) of Messiaen’s writings for journals and newspapers up to 1939 as a most valuable appendix.

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  • Dingle, Christopher. “Understated Charm: Style and Technique in the Last Works of Olivier Messiaen.” PhD diss., University of Sheffield, 2000.

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    A comprehensive study of Messiaen’s late works with detailed discussion of the musical procedures used in each and with an extended commentary on Éclairs sur l’Au-delà . . . . Dingle explores the aspects of Messiaen’s late style that make it distinctive from his earlier music.

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  • Fallon, Robert. “Messiaen’s Mimesis: the Language and Culture of the Bird Styles.” PhD diss., University of California Berkeley, 2005.

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    An important contribution to the study of Messiaen’s “bird style,” supported by detailed documentary study and providing a revealing analysis of the ways in which Messiaen attempted both to imitate nature and go beyond it. Fallon concludes that Messiaen’s representations of nature, especially birdsong, can be seen as a reinvention of the music of the spheres.

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  • Sholl, Robert. “Olivier Messiaen and the Culture of Modernity.” PhD diss., King’s College, University of London, 2003.

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    A consideration of Messiaen’s aesthetic position as a religious modernist, supporting this with relevant literary and theological texts that relate to Messiaen. Sholl examines Messiaen’s own pronouncements critically in the context of his study.

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  • Sprout, Leslie A. “Music for a ‘New Era’: Composers and National Identity in France, 1936–46.” PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2000.

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    While not specifically about Messiaen, this very well documented study of French music includes several mentions of the composer and provides a rich context in which to position his work during these years.

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Related Literature

A number of books and articles include significant material on, or relating to, Messiaen. Among these are the writings of Boulez (Boulez 1986), and the biography of Langlais (Jaquet-Langlais 1995). Critical opinions include the reviews in Honegger 1949 and the surveys of French contemporary music by Rostand and Roy. More recent scholarship has provided new information about music at the 1937 Paris Exposition (Simeone 2002) and during World War II (Chimènes 2001, Lauerwald 2008).

  • Boulez, Pierre. “Olivier Messiaen.” Orientations. Translated by Martin Cooper, 404–420. London: Faber & Faber, 1986.

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    A fascinating group of short texts on Messiaen, ranging from a description of his teaching, to his enrichment of musical language from non-European sources and the importance of his most daring works from 1949 to 1951, characterized by Boulez as Messiaen’s “adventurous years.”

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  • Chimènes, Myriam, ed. La vie musicale sous Vichy. Brussels: Editions Complexe, 2001.

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    Essays on music in France under the Vichy regime and the German Occupation. Chapters by Krivopissko, Morin and Sprout are particularly useful for contextualizing Messiaen. Contributors: Josette Alviset, Myriam Chimènes, Nathalie Dompnier, Florence Gétreau, Sandrine Grandgambe, Jean Gribenski, Jean-Marie Jacono, Guy Krivopissko and Daniel Virieux, Alexandra Laederich, Bernadette Lespinard, Ursula Mathis, Cécile Méadel, Philippe Morin, Marie-Claire Mussat, Manuela Schwartz, Yannick Simon, Leslie A. Sprout, Françoise Taliano-Des Garets, and Ludovic Tournès.

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  • Honegger, Arthur. “Olivier Messiaen.” Incantation aux fossiles. By Arthur Honegger, 95–100. Lausanne, Switzerland: Éditions d’Ouchy, 1948.

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    Reprints of Honegger’s sympathetic and perceptive reviews of the Quartet for the End of Time and Visions de l’Amen.

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  • Jaquet-Langlais, Marie-Louise. Ombre et lumière: Jean Langlais 1907–1991. Paris: Combre, 1995.

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    Includes transcriptions of numerous letters from Messiaen to Langlais, mostly from the late 1920s and early 1930s and draws on these to document the warm friendship between them.

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  • Lauerwald, Hannelore. Primum vivere—Zuerst Leben. Wie Gefangene das Stalag VIIIA Görlitz erlebten. Bautzen, Germany: Lusatia Verlag, 2008.

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    Illustrated with numerous photographs and plans of Stalag VIII-A, where Messiaen was a prisoner of war. This book examines daily life in the camp through chapters about prisoners of war at Görlitz from Belgium, France, and Italy, with a section on the first performance of Quartet for the End of Time.

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  • Rostand, Claude. French Music Today. New York: Da Capo, 1973.

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    A revised English translation of Rostand’s La musique française contemporaine (Paris, 1952), including Rostand’s account of the music by the Groupe Jeune France, especially Messiaen, about whom Rostand is starting to develop a more positive view than in his hostile reviews from the mid-1940s.

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  • Roy, Jean. “Olivier Messiaen.” In Présences contemporaines: Musique française. By Jean Roy, 361–384. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Debresse, 1962.

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    A cogent summary of Messiaen’s career up to Chronochromie, followed by a brief bibliography, list of works and selective discography.

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  • Simeone, Nigel. “The Science of Enchantment: Music at the 1937 Paris Exposition.” Musical Times (Spring 2002): 9–17.

    DOI: 10.2307/1004419Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the music composed for the 1937 Exposition des Arts et des techniques appliquées à la vie moderne with a focus on the works commissioned by the City of Paris for broadcast along the Seine during the nightly “Fêtes de la lumière,” among them Messiaen’s Fête des belles-eaux.

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Recordings by Messiaen

Messiaen was involved in numerous recordings of his music, including most of those with Yvonne Loriod, and he was often credited as “artistic supervisor.” The following discs are of particular interest since all feature him as a performer, either on the organ or the piano. They include examples of his improvisations as well as recordings of several important works. All are compact discs unless otherwise stated.

  • Messiaen, Oliver (organ). Olivier Messiaen: Improvisations inédites. Olivier Messiaen (organ). La Praye DLP 0209, 2 discs. 1987.

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    Twenty-nine improvisations by Messiaen recorded during services at La Trinité between 1984 and 1987.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. Messiaen par lui-même. EMI 7674002, 4 discs. 1992

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    Messiaen’s own recordings of his organ works, all made at La Trinité in 1956: Le banquet céleste, Diptyque, Apparition de l’Église éternelle, L’Ascension, La Nativité du Seigneur, Les corps glorieux, Messe de la Pentecôte, and Livre d’orgue.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time; Improvisations. DVD. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 1999.

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    Includes three filmed improvisations based on Christmas plainchant recorded by Messiaen at La Trinité in October 1985.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. Messiaen Edition. Warner Classics 256462162-2, 18 discs. 2005.

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    Includes Messiaen’s 1972 recording made at La Trinité of the Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte-Trinité and an interview with Claude Samuel from 1988.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. Les Rarissimes d’Olivier Messiaen. EMI 385275-2, 2 discs. 2006.

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    Includes Messiaen’s 1951 recording of the Quatre etudes de rythme and his 1949 recording of Visions de l’Amen with Yvonne Loriod.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. Olivier Messiaen: Les premiers enregistrements; 1956–1963. Accord/Universal 480 1045, 7 discs. 2008.

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    Includes Messiaen’s 1956 recording of the Quartet for the End of Time with André Vacellier, Jean Pasquier and Etienne Pasquier, and his 1962 recording of Visions de l’Amen with Yvonne Loriod.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver. L’âme en bourgeon. Erato STU 71104 (LP record).

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    Messiaen’s improvisations on poems by Cécile Sauvage recorded at La Trinité in 1977, the poems spoken by Gisèle Casadesus.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver (piano), and Lise Arséguet (soprano). Olivier Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi. Harmonia Mundi HMO30543 and Everest 3269 (both LP records).

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    Messiaen made his only recording of the Poèmes pour Mi in 1964. Note the singer’s name is given incorrectly as “Arseguest” on the Everest issue.

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  • Messiaen, Oliver (piano), and Marcelle Bunlet (soprano). Harawi, Debussy: Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire. Concert at Vichy Festival, 1954. INA Mémoire vive IMV 044.

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    Messiaen made no studio recording of Harawi, so this live performance with Marcelle Bunlet (for whom the songs were written) is of particular interest.

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LAST MODIFIED: 06/29/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199757824-0057

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