Olivier Eugène Messiaen

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Messiaen, Olivier Eugène


Born Dec. 10, 1908, in Avignon. French composer, organist, and teacher.

Messiaen graduated in 1930 from the Paris Conservatory, where he studied composition with P. Dukas. In 1936 he and the composers A. Jolivet, D. Lesur, and Y. Baudrier founded the creative group Jeune France. During World War II he spent 1940–41 in a German concentration camp for prisoners of war, where his Quartet for the End of Time was written and first performed. In 1942, Messiaen became a professor at the Paris Conservatory, where his students included outstanding musicians such as P. Boulez and K. Stockhausen.

Messiaen’s creative work is permeated with theological and mystical ideas, as is evident in the organ suite The Birth of the Lord (1935) and the oratorio The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1969). His music, which rests on new, nonclassical principles, makes use of complex harmonic structures and rhythmic systems. Messiaen wrote the treatise The Technique of My Musical Language (vols. 1–2, 1944), as well as a number of articles and textbooks. He is a pianist and organist.


Shneerson, G. M. Frantsuzskaia muzyka XX veka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970.
“Interv’iu s O. Messianom.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1972, no. 5.
Mari, P. O. Messiaen. [Paris, 1965.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.