Olivier Messiaen

~ Person

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Olivier Messiaen (French: [ɔlivje mɛsjɑ̃]; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex; harmonically and melodically it often uses modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Messiaen also drew on his Roman Catholic faith for his pieces.

He travelled widely and wrote works inspired by diverse influences such as Japanese music, the landscape of Bryce Canyon in Utah and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He said he perceived colours when he heard certain musical chords (a phenomenon known as synaesthesia in its literal manifestation); combinations of these colours, he said, were important in his compositional process. For a short period Messiaen experimented with the parametrisation associated with "total serialism", in which field he is often cited as an innovator. His style absorbed many exotic musical influences such as Indonesian gamelan (tuned percussion often features prominently in his orchestral works).

Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death. He taught at the Schola Cantorum de Paris during the 1930s. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners for an audience of inmates and prison guards. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Quincy Jones, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.

He found birdsong fascinating, notating bird songs worldwide and incorporating birdsong transcriptions into his music. His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music, and his use of birdsong are among the features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.

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Discography

Album

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1959 Oiseaux exotiques Olivier Messiaen; Yvonne Loriod 1
1972 Poèmes pour Mi / Chants de Terre et de Ciel Olivier Messiaen; Noelle Barker, Robert Sherlaw Johnson 1
1976 Eesti orelid 2 J. S. Bach, C. Franck, O. Messiaen 1
1976 Quartet for the End of Time Olivier Messiaen; Tashi Quartet 3
1976 Xenakis: Evryall / Herma / Messiaen: Quatre études de rythme Iannis Xenakis, Olivier Messiaen; Yuji Takahashi 1
1979 Quatour pour la Fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Luben Yordanoff, Albert Tétard, Claude Desurmont, Daniel Barenboim 5 2
1984 Messiaen: Cinq Rechants / Xenakis: Nuits Olivier Messiaen, Iannis Xenakis; Groupe Vocal de France, Michel Tranchant 2
1986 Messiaen: Turangalila / Lutoslawski: Symphony no. 3 Messiaen, Lutosławski; Esa-Pekka Salonen 1
1987 Ligeti: Études pour piano, premier livre / Messiaen: Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (sélection) György Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen; Volker Banfield 1
1987 Livre du Saint Sacrement Olivier Messiaen; Jennifer Bate 1
1987 Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time / Bartok: Contrasts Olivier Messiaen, Béla Bartók; Chamber Music Northwest 1
1987 Turangalîla-symphonie / Quatuor pour la fin du temps Messiaen; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle, Tristan Murail, Peter Donohoe, Saschko Gawriloff, Hans Deinzer, Siegfried Palm, Aloys Kontarsky 1
1988 La Nativité du Seigneur / Apparition de l'Église éternelle / Le Banquet céleste Olivier Messiaen; Marie-Claire Alain 1
1988 The Piano Music of Olivier Messiaen: Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-58), Books 1-3 Olivier Messiaen; Peter Hill 1 2
1989 The Complete Organ Music, Volume 1 Olivier Messiaen; Hans-Ola Ericsson 1
1989 Des Canyons aux étoiles Olivier Messiaen; London Sinfonietta, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Paul Crossley 1
1990 Bartók, Janáček: Violinsonaten / Messiaen: Thema und Variationen Béla Bartók, Leoš Janáček, Olivier Messiaen; Gidon Kremer, Martha Argerich 1
1990 Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Ensemble Walter Boeykens 1
1990 Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Aleksandra Juozapėnaitė-Eesmaa 1
1990 Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, nos. 1-6 O. Messiaen; Anton Batagov 1
1991 Turangalîla-Symphonie Olivier Messiaen; Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung, Yvonne Loriod, Jeanne Loriod 1
1991 Harawi Olivier Messiaen; Yumi Nara, Jay Gottlied 1
1992 Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; ensemble incanto 2
1992 Oeuvres pour orgue Olivier Messiaen; Olivier Messiaen 1
1992 Quatuor pour la fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Eduard Brunner, Trio Fontenay 1
1993 Saint‐Saëns: Symphonie no. 3 / Messiaen: L'Ascension Saint-Saëns, Messiaen; Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung 2
1993 Turangalîla-Symphonie Olivier Messiaen; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Takashi Harada 2
1993 Of Eternal Light Monk, Messiaen, Gordon, Ligeti, Sherman, Moran; Musica Sacra 1
1993 Visions de l'Amen / Hymne Olivier Messiaen; Katia & Marielle Labèque, Orchestre philharmonique de l'ORTF, Marius Constant 1
1994 Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Quatuor Olivier Messiaen 1
1994 Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1994 Éclairs sur l'Au-delà... Olivier Messiaen; Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung 1
1994 Apparition de l'Église éternelle / La Nativité du Seigneur Olivier Messiaen; Olivier Messiaen 1
1994 Catalogue d'oiseaux / La Fauvette des jardins Olivier Messiaen; Anatol Ugorski 2
1994 Des canyons aux étoiles... Olivier Messiaen; Asko Ensemble, Schönberg Ensemble, Slagwerkgroep Den Haag, Reinbert de Leeuw 1
1995 Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum / Chronochromie / La Ville d'en Haut Olivier Messiaen; The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez 2
1995 Concert à quatre / Les Offrandes oubliées / Le Tombeau resplendissant / Un sourire Olivier Messiaen; Orchestre de l’Opéra Bastille, Myung-Whun Chung 1
1995 Quartet for the End of Time Olivier Messiaen; Amici 1
1995 Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Alice Ader 1
1995 Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité Olivier Messiaen; Christopher Bowers-Broadbent 1
1995 Messiaen: Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum / Couleurs de la cité céleste / Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments Messiaen, Stravinsky; Pierre Boulez 1
1995 Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux / Cantéyodjayâ / Quatre Études de rythme / Pièce pour le Tombeau de Paul Dukas Olivier Messiaen; Gloria Cheng 1
1995 Turangalîla-Symphonie Messiaen; Paul Crossley, Tristan Murail, Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen 1
1997 Messiaen: Quatuor pour la fin du temps / Schönberg: Ein Stelldichein / Martinů: Oboe Quartet Messiaen, Schönberg, Martinů; Helén Jahren, Håkan Rosengren, Per Enoksson, Mats Rondin, Stefan Bojsten 1
1997 Catalogue d'oiseaux / Petites esquisses d'oiseaux Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1997 Poèmes pour Mi / Sept Haïkaï / Le Réveil des oiseaux Olivier Messiaen; The Cleveland Orchestra, Pierre Boulez 1
1998 Angela Hewitt plays Messiaen Messiaen; Angela Hewitt 1
1998 Saint François d'Assise Olivier Messiaen; Chœurs et Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris, Seiji Ozawa 1
1999 Préludes / Four Rhythmic Studies / Cantéyodjayâ Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1999 Quartet for the End of Time Olivier Messiaen; Houston Symphony Chamber Players, Christoph Eschenbach 1
1999 Saint François d'Assise Olivier Messiaen; Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Hallé Orchestra, Kent Nagano, José van Dam, Dawn Upshaw 1
1999 BBC Music, Volume 8, Number 1: Love Sacred, Love Profane Fauré, Poulenc, Messiaen; BBC Singers 1
1999 La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ Olivier Messiaen; NDR-Chor, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Karl Anton Rickenbacher, Yvonne Loriod 1
1999 Quartet for the End of Time Olivier Messiaen; The Nash Ensemble 1
1999 Quatuor pour la fin du temps Olivier Messiaen; Members of the Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra 1
1999 Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Michael Kieran Harvey 1
1999 Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Roger Muraro 1
2000 Quatuor pour la fin du temps / La Mort du nombre Olivier Messiaen; Ensemble Ader 1
2000 Quartet for the End of Time / Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum Olivier Messiaen; Vera Beths, George Pieterson, Anner Bijlsma, Reinbert de Leeuw, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bernard Haitink 1
2000 Quatuor pour la fin du Temps Messiaen; Gil Shaham, Paul Meyer, Jian Wang, Myung-Whun Chung 1
2000 Turangalîla Symphony / L'ascension Olivier Messiaen; Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit, François Weigel, Thomas Bloch 1
2000 Catalogue d'oiseaux Olivier Messiaen; Roger Muraro 1
2000 Vingt regards Olivier Messiaen; Pierre-Laurent Aimard 1
2000 Visions de l'Amen pour 2 Pianos Olivier Messiaen; Elisabeth Vatn, Steffen Horn 1
2001 Quartet for the End of Time / Theme and Variations Olivier Messiaen; Amici Ensemble 1
2001 Complete Works for Piano, Volume I: Birdsong Olivier Messiaen; Paul S. Kim 1
2001 Madeleine Forte Plays Piano Music of Olivier Messiaen Olivier Messiaen; Madeleine Forte 1
2001 Turangalîla-Symphonie Olivier Messiaen; Berliner Philharmoniker, Kent Nagano, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Dominique Kim 1
2002 Complete Organ Works Olivier Messiaen; Olivier Latry 2
2002 La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ Messiaen; Orchestre Philharmonique et Chœur de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung 1
2002 La fauvette des jardins / Prélude (1964) / Les offrandes oubliées Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
2002 Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Steven Osborne 1
2002 Quartet for the End of Time / Theme and Variations Olivier Messiaen; Yvonne Loriod, Christoph Poppen, Manuel Fischer-Dieskau, Wolfgang Meyer 2
2003 Des canyons aux étoiles Olivier Messiaen; Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung, Jean-Jacques Justafré, Roger Muraro 1
2004 Martin: Messe pour double chœur a cappella / Messiaen: Cinq Rechants Frank Martin, Olivier Messiaen; RIAS-Kammerchor, Daniel Reuss 1
2004 Voices of Light Olivier Messiaen, Claude Debussy, Osvaldo Golijov, Gabriel Fauré; Dawn Upshaw, Gilbert Kalish 5 1
2004 Plainte calme Olivier Messiaen, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Fauré; Alexander Lonquich 1
2004 Visions de l'Amen Olivier Messiaen; Steven Osborne, Martin Roscoe 1
2004 Éclairs sur l'Au-Delà... Olivier Messiaen; Berliner Philharmoniker, Simon Rattle 1
2004 Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Peter Serkin 4 1
2005 Mélodies (complete) Messiaen; Ingrid Kappelle, Håkon Austbø 2 1
2005 Catalogue d'oiseaux Olivier Messiaen; Michael Kieran Harvey, Peter Cundall 1
2005 Turangalîla-symphonie / Quatuor pour la fin du temps Messiaen; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle, Tristan Murail, Peter Donohoe, Erich Gruenberg, Gervase de Peyer, William Pleeth, Michel Béroff 1
2005 Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Martin Zehn 1
2005 Visions de l'Amen Messiaen, Schütz / Kurtág; Andreas Grau, Götz Schumacher 1
2007 Berg: Vier Stücke / Fromm-Michaels: Stimmungen eines Fauns / Messiaen: Abîme des oiseaux / Schumann: Fantasiestücke / von Weber: Grand Duo Concertant Berg, Fromm-Michaels, Messiaen, Schumann, von Weber; Sabine Grofmeier 1
2008 Chamber Works Olivier Messiaen; Hebrides Ensemble 2
2008 Quatuor pour la fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Trio Wanderer, Pascal Moraguès 1
2008 Fête des belles eaux Olivier Messiaen; Ensemble d’Ondes de Montréal 1
2008 BBC Music, Volume 17, Number 3: 20th-Century French Classics Poulenc, Messiaen, Stravinsky 1
2008 Les oiseaux Messiaen; Louise Bessette 1
2008 Myung-Whun Chung Conducts Messiaen Olivier Messiaen; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Myung-Whun Chung 1
2009 Trois Mélodies / Harawi Olivier Messiaen; Hetna Regitze Bruun, Kristoffer Hyldig 1
2009 Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (Tuttugu tillit til Jesúbarnsins) Olivier Messiaen; Anna Guðný Guðmundsdóttir 1
2010 Messiaen: Visions de l’Amen / Debussy: En blanc et noir Olivier Messiaen, Claude Debussy; Ursula Oppens, Jerome Lowenthal 1
2011 The Liszt Project Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Alban Berg, Alexander Scriabin, Béla Bartók, Marco Stroppa, Maurice Ravel, Olivier Messiaen; Pierre-Laurent Aimard 1
2012 Poèmes Ravel, Messiaen, Dutilleux; Renée Fleming 1
2012 Turangalîla-Symphonie Olivier Messiaen; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Juanjo Mena, Steven Osborne, Cynthia Millar 1
2013 The Edge of Light Messiaen, Saariaho; Gloria Cheng, Calder Quartet 1
2014 Turangalîla-Symphonie Messiaen; Angela Hewitt, Valerie Hartmann-Claverie, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu 1

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