Olivier Messiaen

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Messiaen, Olivier

(ôlēvyā` mĕsyäN`), 1908–92, French composer and organist, b. Avignon. Messiaen was a pupil of Paul DukasDukas, Paul
, 1865–1935, French composer and critic. He was influenced by both the romanticism of Wagner and the impressionism of Debussy. His compositions are few, the best known being a symphonic poem, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897), and an opera,
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 at the Paris Conservatory. He became organist of La Trinité, Paris, in 1931 and taught at the Schola Cantorum and the École Normale de Musique (1936–39). In 1942 he was appointed professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatory, where he taught such 20th-century figures as Pierre BoulezBoulez, Pierre
, 1925–2016, French conductor and composer of modernist classical music. He studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen (1944–45) and studied twelve-tone technique with René Leibowitz (1946).
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 and Karlheinz StockhausenStockhausen, Karlheinz
, 1928–2007, German composer, music theorist, and teacher; his first name also appears as Karl Heinz. He studied composition with Frank Martin in Cologne (1950–51) and with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud in Paris (1951–53).
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. Messiaen's music is remarkably original and personal, rich in color and texture. It draws from many schools and styles, including electronic and serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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, and is often based on scale formulas of his own invention or on his studies of Asian music and birdsong. His compositions also reflect his profound religious mysticism, which is also expounded in his didactic prose works.

Messiaen's major works include L'Ascension (1933), for orchestra; Apparition de l'Église Éternelle (1932), La Nativité du Seigneur (1935), Le Banquet Céleste (1936), and Les Corps Glorieux (1939), for organ; Quartet for the End of Time (1941), his best-known piece, composed while he was a prisoner of war in Germany (1940–42); Visions de l'Amen (1943), for two pianos; the orchestral Oiseaux Exotiques (1956), Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum (1965), and Des Canyons aux Étoiles (1974); and The Transfiguration (1969), an oratorio. He also wrote masses, songs, and much chamber music. His symphony in 10 movements, Turangalila Symphony (1948), is considered the most grandiose expression of his theories. Messiaen's only opera is the five-hour St. Francis of Assisi (1983). His last major composition, Éclairs sur l'Au-Delà (1992), was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, to celebrate its 150th anniversary.


See his Technique of My Mystical Language (tr. 1957); biography by R. S. Johnson (1975, rev. 1989); studies by C. H. Bell (1984), P. Griffiths (1985), and R. Nichols (1986).

References in periodicals archive ?
This dazzling, monumental study of the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is more than equal to the task of charting the life, imagination, and work of a rare genius.
Sunday's concert features works by Olivier Messiaen, Moritz Moszkowski and Ludwig van Beethoven.
This study examines the early life and music of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), focusing on his French Catholic avant-garde music.
He discusses the idea of "German music"; the work of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Nikos Skalkottas, Luigi Nono, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Gyorgy Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Alfred Schnittke, Hanz Werner Henze, and Wolfgang Rihm; the music of postmodern composers; multicultural phenomena in new music; nationalism and folklorism; principles of vocal composition; and the influence of Beethoven on the Schoenberg school.
Mozart, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale," by Handel, and "The Robin," by Olivier Messiaen, plus many more.
The result is a hauntingly beautiful, otherworldly masterpiece of twentieth-century chamber music: The Quartet for the End of Time (Quatuor pour la fin du Temps) by Olivier Messiaen.
Olivier Messiaen (12-10-18 to 4-27-92) and his music of the "breakthrough toward the beyond" is the subject of this vigorous analysis of a highly unique, challenging modern composer.
Huysmans, Olivier Messiaen, and Malcolm McLaren, to be presented in part by the American Composers Forum this fall--and Funhouse--which will reference both the Stooges album of the same name as well as the fun-house setting in Orson Welles's Lady from Shanghai, and will be performed during the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time festival.
In the same year, he won the first prize at the international Olivier Messiaen Competition.
It is in this twelve-movement work for chamber orchestra and piano solo that Olivier Messiaen portrays his religious conviction and his love of the natural world, including birdsong and rural landscapes.
Marcel Clement beautifully summarizes the power of Messiaen's accomplishment: "On reaching an age at which, from life's peak, one's inner attention turns to heaven, Olivier Messiaen undoubtedly experienced, in this work which he probably considered as the final stage, the most intimate effusion of musical genius and of communion with the 'One who Is.
For Silvestrov, this beauty can be found in the sacred, and he is in rarified, if sparse, company in his aesthetic: in the late twentieth century there were only a few Western musicians of note still concerned with sacred music, among them Olivier Messiaen, Francis Poulenc, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.