Olivier Messiaen

~ Person


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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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1959 Oiseaux exotiques Olivier Messiaen 1
1976 Eesti orelid 2 J. S. Bach, C. Franck, O. Messiaen 1
1976 Quartet for the End of Time (Tashi Quartet) Olivier Messiaen 3
1979 Quatour pour la Fin du Temps - Yordanoff, Tetard, Desurmont, Barenboim (1978 DG 1979) Olivier Messiaen 1
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) (feat. piano:Volker Banfield) György Ligeti / Olivier Messiaen 1
1987 Livre du Saint Sacrement (feat. organ: Jennifer Bate) Olivier Messiaen 1
1987 Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time / Bartok: Contrasts Messiaen / Bartók 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 Bartok, Janacek Violin Sonatas, Messiaen Theme and Variations (feat. violin: Gidon Kremer, piano: Martha Argerich) Bartók / Janáček / Messiaen 1
1990 Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps (Ensemble Walter Boeykens) Olivier Messiaen 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
1992 Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen 1
1992 Oeuvres pour orgue Olivier Messiaen; Olivier Messiaen 1
1992 Quatuor pour la fin du Temps Olivier Messiaen; Eduard Brunner, Trio Fontenay 1
1993 Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 "Organ" / The Ascension (Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille feat. conductor Myung-Whun Chung) Camille Saint‐Saëns / Olivier Messiaen 2
1993 Turangalîla-Symphonie Olivier Messiaen; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Takashi Harada 2
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 2
1994 Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1994 Éclairs sur l'Au-delà ... (Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille feat. conductor: Myung-Whun Chung) Olivier Messiaen 1
1994 Apparition de l'Église éternelle / La Nativité du Seigneur Olivier Messiaen; Olivier Messiaen 1
1994 Catalogue d'oiseaux / La Fauvette des jardins (feat. piano: Anatol Ugorski) Olivier Messiaen 2
1994 Des Canyons Aux Étoiles... (Asko Ensemble, Schönberg Ensemble, Slagwerkgroep Den Haag feat. conductor: Reinbert De Leeuw) Olivier Messiaen 1
1995 Chronochromie / La Ville d'en Haut / Et Exspecto (The Cleveland Orchestra feat. conductor: Pierre Boulez) Olivier Messiaen 2
1995 Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité Olivier Messiaen 1
1995 Turangalîla-Symphonie Messiaen; Paul Crossley, Tristan Murail, Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen 1
1997 Catalogue d'oiseaux / Petites esquisses d'oiseaux Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1997 Poèmes pour Mi / Sept Haïkaï / Le Réveil des oiseaux (The Cleveland Orchestra feat. conductor: Pierre Boulez) Olivier Messiaen 1
1998 Piano Music Olivier Messiaen; Angela Hewitt 1
1998 Saint François d'Assise (Chœurs et Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris feat. conductor: Seiji Ozawa) Olivier Messiaen 1
1999 Préludes / Four Rhythmic Studies / Cantéyodjayâ Olivier Messiaen; Håkon Austbø 1
1999 Saint François d'Assise (Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Hallé Orchestra feat. conductor: Kent Nagano) Olivier Messiaen 1
1999 BBC Music, Volume 8, Number 1: Love Sacred, Love Profane Fauré / Poulenc / Messiaen 1
1999 Turangalîla / L'ascension (Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra feat. conductor: Antoni Wit, piano: François Weigel, ondes martenot: Thomas Bloch) Olivier Messiaen 2
1999 La Transfiguration De Jésus Christ (NDR-Chor/Rundfunkchor Berlin & Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin feat. conductor: Karl Anton Rickenbacher) Olivier Messiaen 1
1999 Quartet for the End of Time (The Nash Ensemble) Olivier Messiaen 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 Quartet for the End of Time Messiaen; Gil Shaham, Paul Meyer, Jian Wang, Myung-Whun Chung 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 Complete Works for Piano, Volume I: Birdsong (feat. piano: Paul S. Kim) Olivier Messiaen 1

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