Messiaenapalooza | Bleader

Friday, February 15, 2008


Posted By on 02.15.08 at 01:21 PM

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Awesome: the U. of C. will be marking the 100th birthday of the late French composer Olivier Messiaen in October with a 10-day festival, featuring the wonderful, eclectic pianist Pierre Laurent-Aimard, eighth blackbird, the Pacifica Quartet, and many others. Wikipedia's bio is actually quite extensive.

Messaien's most famous work is Quartet for the End of Time, inspired by the Book of Revelations and first performed at Stalag 13; Alex Ross has essays on that and his opera St. Francis. I really like this thumbnail description by David Schiff:

"His religious beliefs were those of a pious medieval Catholic; his musical style ignored just about everything that had happened in European music between the troubadours and Wagner. He cobbled together a personal idiom out of bits and pieces of musical techniques and sources from around the world, forging them into a system he hawked with the ardent self-confidence of a traveling Bible salesman. His combination of naïve fervor, pedantry and self-made originality made him seem more like a misplaced American maverick--like Charles Ives, Henry Cowell or John Cage--than a product of French culture."

Messiaen is just endlessly fascinating. I hope someone at the U. of C. tracks down and screens Paul Festa's Apparition of the Eternal Church, which features a diverse cast (including Harold Bloom and John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig fame) reacting to a Messiaen work, just because it looks interesting.

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