Olivier Messiaen

~ Person


Olivier-Eugène-Prosper-Charles 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 global 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
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
2015 Des canyons aux étoiles Messiaen; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach 1
2015 L'amour et la foi Olivier Messiaen; Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Danish National Concert Choir, Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Marcus Creed 1
2015 Marcel Dupré at Saint-Sulpice, Vol. 5: Dupré and Messiaen Dupré, Messiaen; Marcel Dupré 2
2016 Visions Adams, Bach, Messiaen; Christina and Michelle Naughton 1
2016 Des canyons aux étoiles Olivier Messiaen; Alan Gilbert, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival 1
Boulez: Le marteau sans Maître / Sonatine / Messiaen: 7 Haïkaï Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen; Pierre Boulez 1
Fauré: Requiem / Cantique de Jean Racine / Duruflé: Messe "Cum jubilo" / Quatre motets / Messiaen: O sacrum convivium Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen; Choir of Trinity College, Richard Marlow 1
Messe de la Pentecôte / Livre d'orgue Olivier Messiaen; Louis Thiry 1
Messiaen: 7 Haïkaï / Eloy: Équivalences / Pousseur: Madrigal III Messiaen, Eloy, Pousseur; Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Pierre Boulez 1
Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps / Cinq Rechants Olivier Messiaen; Marcel Couraud 1
Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine / Méditations sur le mystère de la Sainte Trinité Olivier Messiaen; Marcel Couraud, Olivier Messiaen 1
Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jesus Olivier Messiaen; Joanna MacGregor 1
Vingt Regards sur l'enfant Jésus Olivier Messiaen; Yvonne Loriod 2

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1991 Koechlin: Les Bandar-Log / Boulez: Le Soleil des eaux / Messiaen: Chronochromie / Et expecto resurectionem mortuorum Charles Koechlin, Pierre Boulez, Olivier Messiaen 1
1994 Works for Organ Charles-Marie Widor, Olivier Messiaen, Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne; Charles-Marie Widor, Olivier Messiaen, Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne 1
1996 Mystic: The Musical Visions of Olivier Messiaen Olivier Messiaen 2
2004 Des canyons aux étoiles ... / Hymne au Saint-Sacrement / Les offrandes oubliées Olivier Messiaen; Yvonne Loriod, Ensemble Ars Nova, Orchestre Philharmonique de l'ORTF, Marius Constant 1
2005 Messiaen Edition Olivier Messiaen 1
2008 Complete Edition Olivier Messiaen 1
2008 The Anniversary Edition Olivier Messiaen 1
2009 Complete Organ Works Olivier Messiaen; Hans-Ola Ericsson 1
2012 Collectors' Edition: Messiaen: Orchestral Works Olivier Messiaen; Pierre Boulez, Mung-Whun Chung 1
The Complete Organ Works Olivier Messiaen; Gillian Weir 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2007 BBC Music, Volume 15, Number 5: Turangalîla Symphony Olivier Messiaen; BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Thierry Fischer, Roger Muraro, Jacques Tchamkerten 1
2012 BBC Music, Volume 21, Number 2: Messiaen: La Nativité du Seigneur / Hakim: Le Tombeau d'Olivier Messiaen Olivier Messiaen, Naji Hakim; Naji Hakim 1

Other + Interview

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
Entretien avec Claude Samuel Olivier Messiaen, Claude Samuel 1

Unspecified type

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1987 Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus / Préludes Messiaen; Michel Béroff 1
1999 Harawi: Song of Love and Death Olivier Messiaen; Lucy Shelton, John Constable 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
2011-07-18: BBC Proms 2011: Prom 5: Royal Albert Hall, City of Westminster, London, England, UK Olivier Messiaen, Pascal Dusapin, Ludwig van Beethoven 1

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