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Olivier MessiaenFrench organist and composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is one of the most important and unique composers of the 20th century.  He entered the Paris Conservatoire at age 11 and studied with Dukas, Widor, and Dupré among others. Beginning in 1931 he served as organist at Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris. When the France was overrun by the Germans in the summer of 1940 Messiaen was made a prisoner of war and sent to a camp known as Stalag VIIIA in Görlitz, a small German town near the Polish border. Also in the camp were other professional musicians Henri Akoka (clarinet), Jean la Boulaire (violin), and Etienne Pasquier (cello).  With the help of a German officer Karl-Albert Brüll, Messiaen was able to obtain paper, pencils, and a place to work. Apparently the first movement to be written was The Abyss of the Birds for solo clarinet. Next followed a trio for violin, clarinet, and cello that was to become the central Interlude. This movement became a quartet with the addition of the piano. The work was premiered outdoors in the rain on January 15, 1941 before an audience of prisoners and guards. Messiaen was later quoted as saying, "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension." Karl-Albert Brüll once again provided invaluable assistance to Messiaen by forging papers that allowed him to be released from captivity in March, 1941. A short time later Messiaen returned to his position at the Paris Conservatoire.

Henri Akoka
Henri Akoka (clarinet)
Jean la Boulaire
Jean la Boulaire (violin)
Quartet for the End of Time poster

The live recordings on this site were made at the 2012 Belvedere Chamber Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee. Perfomers are: Gregory Maytan (violin), Nobuko Igarashi (clarinet), Craig Hultgren (cello), and Adam Bowles (piano), members of the Luna Nova Ensemble.

For more complete information about the composition of this work see Rischin, Rebecca, For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, (Cornell University Press, 2003)


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