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Quartet for the end of Time Messiaen

As the four men tackled this extraordinarily difficult work, their technique, their musicality, their relationship, and their thinking became transformed. At the center of their musical universe revolved a mysterious composer whose brilliance reflected wonder, radiated light, but whose unshakeable faith in the face of the seemingly hopeless surroundings often raised puzzling questions. 2

1 2 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.37)

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These notes are solely prepared to aid you in your preparation to teach the comparison of the two interpretations as set on the VCE syllabus. Please do not reproduce in any form. I have tried to reference clearly so that you can access the sources yourselves for further investigation.

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Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)

Born in Avignon on the 10th December, 1908 French composer, organist and teacher Influenced by composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky and Bartk From the very beginning of his composition developed an individual modal system that he stayed true to throughout his compositional career Was a committed Catholic Between the ages of 7 & 9 he began to compose and play the piano and was said to have instructed himself a great deal in the beginning Was said to have demanded operatic scores of great works for Christmas presents. Because of this he became familiar with the work of Mozart, Gluck, Berlioz and Wagner In 1919 he entered the Conservatory and was one of its youngest students. ...a photograph of Jean Gallons harmony call in 1923 shows a child in the company of young men and women 3 (Griffiths, 2009, pg.1) In September 1931 he took the post of organist at La Trinit in Paris. He was to work here for more than 60 years Much of his music is religious and was said to manifest the doctrines of the Christian faith. 4(Griffiths, 2009, pg.2)

Griffiths, Paul "Messiaen, Olivier." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 Feb. 2009 (pg. 1)

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In 1936 he began teaching at the Ecole Normale de Musicque and the Schola Cantorum He was called to military service in May 1940 and was captured and taken to a prisoner-of-war-camp at Gorlitz in Silesia. This is where he completed the Quartet for the end of time. He was released in 1941. Messiaen taught many influential composers He was incredibly interested in the study of bird song (ornithology) and used their songs as impetus for his compositions. He could identify by ear 50 species of birds in France and with visual aids he could identify some 550 other species living in France and Europe. He travelled all over the world transcribing birdsong as though taking musical dictions. Messiaen had to adapt his transcriptions to accommodate the limitations of the human ear and musical notation. While La Nativit du Seigneur (1935) was his first reference to birdsong the Quartet was his first attempt at depicting particular species 5
...he devoted himself to copying the songs of particular species he had heard in nature, and from this point on he journeyed throughout France and later throughout much of the world collecting birdsongs by ear 6 It is not just the songs of birds that are projected through this music but also the intense colours of avian plumage, and the awe Messiaen felt for birds as being, like angels of resurrected souls, free in flight and one with God.7

Messiaen often talked about how certain sounds and harmonies evoked a sense of colour for him. For example the use of an A major chord with an added 6th was always bright blue He cited paintings and tapestries by Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) as being influential to his idea of sound colour He also cited his meeting with Charles Blanc-Gatti a painter of sounds who suffered from a disorder of the optic and auditory nerves that

Griffiths, Paul "Messiaen, Olivier." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 Feb. 2009 (pg. 2) 5 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pp.57-58) 6 Griffiths, Paul, "Messiaen, Olivier." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 Feb. 2009 (pg.4) 7 Ibid

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permitted him to see colours as he heard sounds and stained glass windows 8 The Quartet is unique among Messiaens compositions in that its soundpainting stems not merely from the composers lifelong fascination with colour, but from his physical deprivation as a prisoner in Stalag VIIIA. In later compositions, the brush worked hand in hand with the pencil, serving as one of Messiaens principal guiding instruments. 9

Robert Delaunay Painting 10 In 1978 he reluctantly resigned from his teaching position 11

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.56) 9 Ibid (pp. 56-57) 10

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Conception of Quartet for the end of Time

...Messiaens apocalypse has little to do with history and catastrophe; instead, it records the rebirth of an ordinary soul in the grip of extraordinary emotion. Which is why the Quartet is an overpowering now as it was on that frigid night in 194112

Messiaens Quartet for the End of Time was significant for musicians and Messiaen himself. It was his first composition to include bird song First composition to include a treatise on rhythm It is considered one of the most significant 20th century chamber works yet is his only chamber work. It is ironic that it emerged almost by accident. 13
Although the Quartet was born in Stalag VIII A, it was actually conceived in Verdun, where Messiaen met two musicians, Etienne Pasquier and Henri Akoka, who would unknowingly contribute to the shape of musical history. 14 The Quartet for the end of Time is based upon the Revelation of Saint John, Chapter 10.

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow on his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire . . . Setting his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land . . . and, standing on the sea and on the land, he raised his right hand toward Heaven and swore by He who lives forever and ever . . . saying: There will be no more Time; but in the days when the seventh angel is to blow his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled.15

This piece is in eight movements: This Quartet comprises eight movements. Why? Seven is the perfect number, the Creation in six days sanctified by the divine Sabbath; the seventh day of this
Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.56) 12 Ross, Alex (2004) The Rest is Noise, The New Yorker, USA. Acessed 24/02/09 (pg.2) 13 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.1) 14 Ibid 15 Ibid (pg. 129)

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repose extends into eternity and becomes the eighth day of eternal light, of unalterable peace. 16 It contains four main elements: 1. Catholic doctrine 2. Rhythm 3. Sound-colour 4. Birdsong It is the second of eight compositions by Messiaen inspired by Revelation

Messiaen Preface Notes Translated from Programme Accessed 23/02/09
1. Liturgy of Crystal Between three and four in the morning, the awakening of the birds: a solo blackbird or nightingale improvises, surrounded by a shimmer of sound, by a halo of trills lost very high in the trees. Transpose this onto a religious plane and you have the harmonious silence of Heaven. The first and third parts (very short) evoke the power of this mighty angel, a rainbow upon his head and clothed with a cloud, who sets one foot on the sea and one foot on the earth. In the middle section are the impalpable harmonies of heaven. In the piano, sweet cascades of blueorange chords, enclosing in their distant chimes the almost plainchant song of the violin and violoncello. Clarinet alone. The abyss is Time with its sadness, its weariness. The birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs. Scherzo, of a more individual character than the other movements, but linked to them nevertheless by certain melodic recollections Jesus is considered here as the Word. A broad phrase, infinitely slow, on the cello, magnifies with love and reverence the eternity of the Word, powerful and gentle, whose time never runs out. The melody stretches majestically into a kind of gentle, regal distance. In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 (KJV)) Rhythmically, the most characteristic piece of the series. The four instruments in unison imitate gongs and trumpets (the first six trumpets of the Apocalypse followed by various disasters, the trumpet of the seventh angel announcing consummation of the mystery of God). Use of added values, of augmented or diminished rhythms, of nonretrogradable rhythms. Music of stone, formidable granite sound; irresistible movement of steel, huge blocks of purple rage, icy drunkenness. Hear especially all the terrible fortissimo of the augmentation of the theme and changes of register of its different notes, towards the end of the piece. Recurring here are certain passages from the second movement. The angel appears in full force, especially the rainbow that covers him (the

2. Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of Time


Abyss of the birds

4. 5.

Interlude Eulogy to the eternity of Jesus


Dance of the fury, for the seven trumpets


Tangle of rainbows, for the Angel who

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.129)


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announces the end of time


Eulogy to the immortality of Jesus

rainbow, symbol of peace, wisdom, and all luminescent and sonorous vibration). In my dreams, I hear and see ordered chords and melodies, known colours and shapes; then, after this transitional stage, I pass through the unreal and suffer, with ecstasy, a tournament; a roundabout compenetration of superhuman sounds and colours. These swords of fire, this blue-orange lava, these sudden stars: there is the tangle, there are the rainbows! Large violin solo, counterpart to the violoncello solo of the 5th movement. Why this second eulogy? It is especially aimed at second aspect of Jesus, Jesus the Man, the Word made flesh, immortally risen for our communication of his life. It is all love. Its slow ascent to the acutely extreme is the ascent of man to his god, the child of God to his Father, the being made divine towards Paradise.

Rhythm and Time The title of the piece is actually a play on words: The dual meaning of the title, as the composer explained, rests not with the notion of the interminability of captivity, but with the composers desire to eliminate conventional notions of musical time and of past and future. The notion of time, musical as well as philosophical, is central to a basic understanding of the quartet. 17 1st movement based on 3 Hindu rhythms 6th movement employs non-retrogradable rhythms as well as augmentation, diminuition, added values and derivation of Greek rhythm and meter The preface rhythm was the 2nd treatise on rhythm the first being in 1935 work for organ La Nativit du Seigneur Non-retrogradable rhythms is one of the technical means by which Messiaen realised the musical cessation of time others are: - The length of the work (approximately 52 minutes) - Reliance on rhythmic duration rather than meter (Movements 3,5,6) - Extremely slow tempi (movements 3, 5 & 8) 18


Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.52) 18 Ibid (pp.52-54)

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First Performance & Performers

Henry Akoka (original clarinettist in Stalag VIIIA) Born June 23rd 1912 in Palikao, Algeria He earned money playing in a band associated with the wallpaper factory where he was employed At 14 he found work playing for silent films Studied music at the Paris Conservatory and received the premier prix in clarinet in June 1935


In 1936 he joined the Orchestre Symphonique de la Radio diffusion de Strasbourg Soon after he became a member of Orchestre National de la Radio In 1939 he was mobilized into the army and was sent to be part of the military orchestra at the citadel of Vaubean near Verdun It was here that all three became very good friends It was in Verdun that Messiaen began writing his famous Abyss of the Birds for unaccompanied clarinet Akokas playing style had a great influence on Messiaens future musical preferences 20
Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (Figure 7)

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Akoka played a Couesnan clarinet and a Couesnan mouthpiece with a Prier facing Akoka played with a brighter, thinner, more metallic sound than that of a modern day clarinet 21 Akoka attempted to escape Stalag VIIIA two times and on his second attempt was successful Sept. 1940 he, Ren Charles (actor) and a Polish prisoner fled the camp After travelling for 350 miles they were captured 13 miles from the Czechlovakian frontier Akoka charmed the officers so that he could keep his instrument and was returned to Stalag VIIIA where he was put in solitary confinement. He liked this very much as this was warmer than the normal barracks 22 This is said to be the piano that the piece first premiered on.


On the evening of the 15th January, 1941 the Quartet was premiered in Stalag VIIIA The concert was given special permission to have the whole evening to itself often music concerts would be followed by comedies and variety shows
Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pp.11-12) 21 Ibid. (pg.13) 22 Ibid (pp.44-5) 23 Ibid (Figure 20)

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The commandant saw this as a special occasion and he ordered programmes to be printed with the camp name on them He ordered programs to be printed listing the name of the camp, the title of the composition, the name of the composer, the date of the premiere, the names of the performers, and the camps official stamp. 24 The demand for tickets was so great that special authorization for the prisoners in quarantine to attend was given There is some conjecture about how many people really did attend that first playing of the Quartet. Messiaen has been quoted as saying 5000 but his fellow musicians have all stated that they played to a full barrack which only had the capacity of approximately 350-400. As it was the middle of Winter (-20 below outside) there can be no confusion that this was an event held outside The crowd was diverse with farmers, factory workers, intellectuals, doctors etc. Before the concert Messiaen gave a short lecture Messiaen likes to recall that the playing conditions were harsher than they really were, especially with reference to the instruments the piano had continually sticking notes, there were only three strings on the cello and one key on the clarinet had been melted because it was sat too near a heat source these memories of Messiaens are somewhat exaggerated. - Yes the piano was inadequate - If the clarinet really did have a melted key then the rest of the clarinet would be up in flames too! - Pasquier has insisted to Messiaen and others that he had four strings to play on and that this piece is impossible to play with three Pasquier has been quoted as saying that Messiaen exaggerated to merely amuse himself others have different theories. To Messiaen the composer and Messiaen the devout Catholic is added Messiaen the dramatist, one who misreported history not for the sake of a little personal amusement, as it would appear, but for an entirely different
Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg. 61)

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reason. In perpetuating the legend of the three-stringed cello, Messiaen imbued his story with an even greater aura of the miraculous, with an image of birds flying over the abyss, a quartet of musicians rising above the Apocalypse, redeeming the earth through music. 25 The audience reaction was varied from stunned, amazed.... From anticipation to anxiety, from bewilderment to awe for a brief musical moment the prisoners were free.26


Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg. 66) 26 Ibid (pg. 70)

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The Journey to Stalag VIII A


Etienne Pasquier Performed in Original Premiere in 1941 Born on the 10th May 1905 Child prodigy who started learning cello at the age of 5 At 13 he was enrolled at the Paris Conservatory It was here that he received the premier prix in cello in 1921 In 1921 he became the youngest member of the Concerts Colonne Orchestra In 1927 he founded the Trio Pasquier with his brothers Jean and Pierre At the age of 24 (1929) he married singer Suzanne Gouts and joined the Paris Opera Orchestra A year later he was appointed as the Assistant Principal Cellist In September 1939 he was mobilized in the army


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In 1940 he was transferred to the citadel of Vauban at Verdun where a French general (Utziger) created a theatre orchestra for the troops. He was corporal of music Four other Frenchmen were under his command and Messiaen was one of these Messiaen asked to be on watch with Pasquier so they could listen to the music of the awakening of the birds 29
Here, near Verdun, the chorus of birds that Pasquier found deafening inspired the composition that would later become the third movement of a monumental work. 30

In May of 1940 Germany launched an attack and all three musicians were forced to flee On June 20th, 1940 they were all captured and force marched many miles to the vicinity of Nancy. Akoka has been said to have extremely helpful throughout this journey encouraging the others to keep moving forward It was not until they were near Nancy that the Abyss of the Birds was first played 31
While Akoka played and Messiaen listened, Pasquier, who had been unable to bring his cello with him, assumed the function of the music stand.32

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (Figure 35) 29 Ibid (pp.9-10) 30 Ibid (pg.11) 31 Ibid (pp.11-12) 32 Ibid (pg. 12)


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Akoka sight-read the piece and made many grumbles that it was too difficult to play, Messiaen all the while encouraging him that he could do it We have to remember that this was a time when the technical standards were lower than what we have today even today this clarinet part is considered technically challenging In Stalag VIIIA the trio met the violinist Jean Le Boulaire Jean Le Boulaire Was born on the 2nd August 1913, Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, France Began lessons on the violin at the age of 7 At 14 he entered the Paris Conservatory Served in the military from 1934-1936 and was re-mobilised in 1938 He was captured in June, 1940 and sent to Stalag VIIIA Was quartered with Henri Akoka All the prisoners shared 4/5 violins so Boulaire had to fight for the use of one. It is said that an instrument was found and one actually given to Boulaire by the German commandant. There are a few stories of Boulaire actually being taken into town to choose an instrument for

himself 33


Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messaien Quartet, Cornwell University Press, New York (pp.32-35) 34 Ibid (Figure 18)


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There were approximately 30, 000 prisoners in Stalag VIIIA, the majority of them French
35 36

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Most prisoners lived in outlying commandos (annexes) where they were sent to work on farms, mines and factories At any given time only about 1000 lived in the camp itself Germanys unexpectedly rapid conquest of France caused prisoner lodging problems When Messiaen, Pasquier and Akoka arrived in the summer of 1940 the camp was still under construction Until the Red Cross arrived there were severe food shortages Health of inmates deteriorated but not as bad as the deportees Inmates lost weight, hair and teeth Messiaen developed chilblains due to the extreme cold and malnutrition He was housed in Barrack 19A with other French and Belgian prisoners but would often take refuge in the priests barrack to read in peace and quiet Pasquier lived with the cooks so was able to steal food he was never caught Conditions in Stalag VIIIA improved as Germany was more victorious The library by 1943 had 10, 000 volumes A small Polish ensemble grew into a 24 piece multinational classical orchestra conducted by a Belgian prisoner Ferdinand Caren There was also a jazz band (at the time when the quartet were in Stalag VIIA the orchestra and jazz bands were not up and running) Ren Charles (actor) gained permission to organise weekly concerts and variety shows every Saturday night. One ticket cost 20 pfennings and ended by 9pm in time for the curfew All programming for concerts was controlled by the Germans Between 1941-1944 the officers in the camp organised art exhibitions There was a prisoners monthly newspaper but once again the content was censored by the Germans The camp was described by Jules Lefebure as a veritable university with academic conferences and courses in English and German After Messiaens departure the camp was split into two sections West Europeans & Russians and Italians All cultural and recreational resources were on the Western European side of the camp

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Preferential treatment was not only determined by nationality but by profession musicians were especially privileged It is not certain whether this is because Germans appreciated music or were merely putting on a show for the Red Cross Pasquier was originally put to work in a mine but the German officers were told of his career as a musician and he was moved back to safer employment in the camp 37 Once it became known that Messiaen was a famous composer . . . he was immediately exempted from prisoners duties and placed in a barrack so that he could compose in peace. 38 There is some controversy as to whether he was locked in the latrine or a barrack to compose but most accounts agree that you were not allowed to disturb him and this was patrolled by the German officers In 1991 Messiaen revealed the name of the officer who supplied him with pencils and paper for his compositions Monsieur Brull He was a lawyer before the war and not only did he help Messiaen and his trio but he was also one of the few officers who went out of his way to protect Jewish prisoners 39 Henry Akoka . . . . was Jewish . . the tale of his survival contains as many miraculous twists and turns as the story of the Messiaen Quartet itself. 40 Soon after June 25th, 1940 the camp authorities designated Barrack 27 for plays, concerts and movies The larger half of the barrack was transformed into a theatre, with enough wooden benches for the seating of approximately four hundred people, the lavatories became a stage, and the rest of the barrack served as a dressing room. 41 Lectures were presented and one was delivered by Messiaen who spoke on the importance of colour in the Book of Revelation Colours and Numbers in the Apocalypse

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pp.19-27) 38 Ibid (pg.27) 39 Ibid (pp.27-31) 40 Ibid (pp.30-31) 41 Ibid (pp.27-31)

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He said this lecture rekindled his desire to compose and was a precursor to the Quartet Not long after this lecture a piano arrived in the camp it was out of tune and the keys would intermittently stick Messiaen became something of a celebrity in the camp and was consulted on all matters, not just musical matters. Fellow prisoners were said to have begged for autographs from Messiaen and the trio 42 Every evening at 6pm the Quartet would rehearse. They were allowed 4 hours of practice a day. They also used free time on Saturday evenings to rehearse. Messiaen used to rehearse in the evening and Officer Brull was said to have helped this happen Brull was also said to have provided the quartet with a more comfortable environment to rehearse in more fuel for their fire etc. Finding time to rehearse as a quartet was still very hard as the piano was kept in a general public area and noise and interruptions were an issue Messiaens writing was also very hard to put together in ensemble terms this piece is extremely difficult 43 . . . Messiaens unusual rhythms and frequent elimination of meter posed great challenges to the other three musicians of the quartet, who, a Le Boulaire recalled, felt lost when liberated from the prison of conventional expectations. 44 The cellist was said to have had to acquire a new technique 45 to play the piece Pasquier was troubled by the intonation and the swift leaps from a high register to a low one and harmonics in the 1st and 5th movements too After the piano arrived Messiaen made some adjustments to the score Messiaen consulted his trio on elements concerning their particular instruments 46

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornwell University Press, New York (pp.35-7) 43 Ibid (pp.37-8) 44 Ibid (pg.39) 45 Ibid (pg.40) 46 Ibid (pg.40)


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Order of Composition
Abyss of the Birds was first conceived in Verdun musicologists have claimed that the 4th movement, Interlude, was the first movement written and that it became the compositional germ out of which the Quartet evolved Messiaens conversations often conflict with his friends memories and it has been suggested that Messiaens memories may have been affected by his experiences throughout the war A compromise with Messiaens recollections and Pasquiers would be that the first version of the Abyss for birds simply formed the basis for a more developed piece that he finished in Stalag VIIIA47

It is possible that the physical and emotional hardships that Messiaen endured during the war may have caused certain events to become effaced from his memory.48 The 5th movement - Louange lEternit de Jesus (Praise to the Eternity of Jesus) for solo cello with piano was taken from a section of Fetes des belles eaux for ondes Martenots (1937) The 8th movement Louange IImmortalit (Praise to the Immortality of Jesus) for solo violin and piano was reworked from the organ work Diptyque (1930) 49

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornwell University Press, New York (pp.16-7) 48 Ibid (pg.17) 49 Ibid (pg.19)


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Analysis of Vocalise, pour lAnge qui announce la fin du Temps Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of Time
Form of Vocalise, pour lAnge qui announce la fin du Temps Ternary Form
For ease of analysis these bar numberings are used as per Anthony Popless analysis book Cambridge Music Handbooks

A (Section 1)

B (Section 2)

A (Section 3)

A1-2 B1-9 C1-7 D1-6 E1-8 F1-6 G1-10 H1-7

Definitions for terms used on the score

Robuste, modr Ad libitum (Ad. Lib) Presque, vif, joyous Modr Fulgurant, presses ce trait moderately robust at pleasure, as much as desired, as you wish to depart from the written notes or script and improvise nearly presto, joyful moderate lighting, press the feature Lighting, press the line Dazzling, press the line Dazzling press this feature (Presses also means to squeeze) Nearly lento (very slow) Drops of water in a rainbow Put mute on Take mute off

Presque lent, impalpable, lointain Gouttes deau en arc-en-ceil Sourdine Otez la sourdine

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Comments on the structure throughout



B1-3 Nearly identical pitches can be seen in D1-3



This is accompanied by the resonance of the notes in the piano


Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg.1, bars B1-3) Ibid (pg.9, bars D1-3)

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In the ternary form there are instances of repetition reversed ordered in most instances. C3-5 an A major triad (decorated by trills) is built and sustained. Top (violin), bottom (cello) and then middle (clarinet). 53 This is repeated in the return of the A section in H3-5, this time in reverse order bottom (cello), top (violin) and middle (clarinet)
Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 8, bars C3-5)





52 Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 8, bars C3-5) 53 Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK (pg. 5) 54 Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 8, bars H3-5)

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The flourish in the piano as seen in C5 is then seen in H5.

H5 C5



Note that instead of ascending it is descending

C1-2 has ascending semiquavers for two bars in the violin and the cello.


When repeated in H1-2 instead of ascending it is descending.


55 56

Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 8, bars C5) Ibid (pg. 14, bar H5) 57 Ibid (pg. 8, bars C1-2)

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The flourish seen in the piano at C6 is seen in reverse order in H6



Messiaen talks of the 2nd movement and its colour associations: In the piano: gentle cascades of chords blue and mauve, gold and green, violet-red, blue-orange-all dominated by steel greys.60 Birdsong in the 2nd Movement Messiaen tried to depict the blackbird and the nightingale in the Quartet In the 1st movement the clarinet parts (the blackbird) and the violin (the nightingale) In the score the bird songs were indicated in general as comme un oiseau.
Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 8, bars C6) Ibid (pg.14, bar H6) 60 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.55)
59 58

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Blackbirds in the 2nd movement can be seen in the trills and the 16th note triplets in the clarinet part - beginning of the 2nd and 7th measures of B. These are derived from the clarinets opening motive in the first movement

B2-4 trill followed by 16th note triplets B7-8



61 62

Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pg. 7, bars B2-4) Ibid (pg. 8, bars B7-8)

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Messiaen. O (1968) Messiaen : Turangalila-Symphonie- Quatuor pour la fin du temps, EMI.

Was recorded at No.1 Abbey Road Studios Is listed as one of the 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die Performers are as follows William Pleeth (1916-199) - Cello



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Was born in London and became known as one of the greatest cellists and pedagogues of the 20th century His family were Jewish emigrants from Poland His family was renowned for producing professional musicians so it was no surprise that he was showing great promise on the cello by the age of seven By the age of fifteen he had learnt a substantial and advanced cello repertoire At the age of 10 he studied with Herbert Walenn at the London Cello School then in Leipzig with Klengel on a scholarship. He was the youngest student ever to be admitted to this programme. In 1940 her joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra on radio In 1952 organised the Allegri String Quartet with Eli Goren and James Barton (violins) and Patrick Ireland (viola). Taught at the Menuhin School in 1977 and wrote a book titled Cello which is part of the Yehudi Menuhin Music Guide Series Preferred chamber music to symphonic and solo work 6465 Erich Gruenberg (b. 1925- ) Violin


Born in Austria Vienna

64 65 66

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Studied at the Jerusalem Conservatory Led the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra 1938-45 In 1947 he won the Carl Flesch Violin Competition In 1950 became a British Subject He plays an extensive repertoire with an active advocacy of contemporary works He has led the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and been the first violin in the London String Quartet He is now a Professor at the Royal Academy of Music and gives master classes all around the world Was awarded the O.B.E in 1994 One of Britains most distinguished and musically wide ranging violinists 6768

Gervase de Peyer (1926 - ) Clarinet


English conductor and clarinettist Born in London and studied at the Bedales School

67 68 69

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Won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music where he studied clarinet with Frederick Thursten and piano with Arthur Alexander When he was 18 he joined the Royal Marines Band Service He returned to the Royal College of Music after the war and later went to study in Paris with Louis Cahuzac He was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble of London who played from 1950-1974 From 1955-1972 he was principal clarinettist for the London Symphony Orchestra 1969 was a founding member of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. He played with this ensemble for 20 years. He has conducted the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Melos Sinfonia, directed the London Symphony Orchestra Wind Ensemble and is the associate conductor of the Haydn Orchestra In 1959 he began teaching at the Royal Academy of Music He has made it a feature of his performance to play solos from memory70 His Style is suave and confident, and incorporates a judicial use of vibrato, enhancing a warmth of tone inherited from the Draper/Thurston school of playing. 71 Michel Boff (b. May 9th, 1950-) Piano Is a French pianist and conductor Trained at the Nancy Conservatory and completed his studies with Yvonne Loriod at the Paris Conservatory He won many prizes including the Messiaen Competition in Rouen on his debut in Paris in 1967 He has toured extensively throughout the world and been an exclusive artist for EMI for 20 years Is considered to be one of the most outstanding Messiaen interpreters Pamela Weston. "De Peyer, Gervase." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed March 4, 2009).


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Currently teaches at the Paris Conservatory 72


Messiaen seated at the piano with Boffs piano teacher Yvonne Loriod

74 74 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (Figure 26)


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Messiaen. O (1956) Olivier Messiaen Quatuor pour la fin du temps, Accord/Universal, European Union
Performers Violin (Jean Pasquier), Clarinet (Andr Vacellier), Cello (Etienne Pasquier) and Olivier Messiaen (piano) Etienne Pasquier and Olivier Messiaen performed at the original premiere in 1941 at the Stalag VIIIA prisoner-of-war camp, in Gorlitz, Germany. For information on Messiaen see Oliver Messiaen (1908-1992) & for Etienne Pasquier see The Journey to Stalag VIIIA

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Two Interpretations
Section Bar No. Universal/Accord 1956 Time:
Track 1 1A&B A1-A2 B1-B9 B1-3 Violin & cello are not joyous B1-3 not clear - blurred Clarinet does not play ad lib. B4 the clarinet does not observe the tenuto mark greatly on the demi-semi quaver fff attack on each trill not really apparent More clarity between violin & cello B1, B2 & B3 More detached semiquavers Clarinet does play ad lib. B4 the clarinet does not observe the tenuto mark greatlyon the demi-semi quaver greater emphasis/attack at the start of the trills Piano not robust and no accents observed A1, B5 & B8

EMI 1968 Time:

Track 2 Piano is robust and accented Tenuto not observed in B4 in clarinet part

A2 & B6 B4


Track 3 1C C1-C7 C6 C3 C5 Piano starts early in C5 and is too tame. This is meant to sound like lightening fff C6 needs to be much stronger in the piano for dynamic fff Accented piano chords not clearly seperated Tempo is way too fast at C3 for the 54 crochet metronome marking C1 Strings do not observe the p cresc. Molto C1, C2

Track 4 There is good definition by strings in the C1, C2 More of the expected dynamic level Chords more defined on this recording

Excellent tempo @ C3

C3-5 C5

Trills well observed at the dynamic level Piano begins on beat 1 instead of observing the quaver rest

2 E-G D1-D6
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Track 5 Tempo appears excessive for the directions on the score

Track 6 Tempo more in line with directions on score

Dynamic not really pp Ends of phrases not really apparent Slightly softer dynamic Slightly more separation between phrases written in the strings line more like singing Vocalise Track 8 Adherence to score markings of soft, crescendo to mf Greater decrescendo to p

Track 7 2F F1-2 Begins at F1 quite loud already rather than using the crescendo

Track 9 G8 G9 Entry slightly late? No change in tempo here for pulse set Comes in slightly late for pulse set Violin quite loud for ppp entry Final semiquaver longish?

Track 10 Final semiquaver longish? Clearer mezzo staccato throughout maybe because of the slower tempo set Entry a semiquaver late for set pulse Slight speeds up in this bar Correct entry for pulse Very much attempt at ppp compared to other recording


Track 11 3H H1-2 Cello starts late? P cresc. Does not build to fff Piano chords murky compared to clarity in other recording Accented quavers need more space between them Speed is well above what is written in the score Violin trills need more power for dynamic level Demi semiquavers are not clear and lack pulse Clarinet not as bright/heard as clearly as in other recording

Track 12 Excellent crescendo


Piano chords more seperated Quavers are more impressive in this recording

Good tempo set as per score


Trills are full of power for the dynamic level more attack at beginning of each



Excellent clarity in the clarinet -

General Tone of Clarinet in both

Darker sound, more overtones, more resonant It is a bigger sound, the airstream

Lighter sound, fewer overtones in the sound Uses vibrato (possible to make up for the fewer overtones) Vibrato is used in a typically English style

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sounds more forward sitting right on the embouchure Sometimes it appears almost forced as if the mouth muscles are on the edge of collapsing from the breath pressure The fast passages are cleaner

of clarinet playing the continental sound tends not to use vibrato, but it seems now to be an individual thing

The wide-bore Boosey and Hawkes (Gervase de Peyer 1968 EMI) may give him more dynamic contrast with a possible loss of colour. Mouthpieces are all different as well Strength of reed, the cut of the reed, age of the reed and moisture content can all affect the tone

Thanks to Mr Wayne Bowden & Mr Allister Cox who also listened to these two interpretations and offered comments on interpretation and tone colour of the instruments.

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Appendix 1
Messiaens Seven Modes of Limited Transposition

Mode 1
more commonly known as the whole-tone scale regular in construction two transpositions he calls these t0 & t1. The t standing for transposition and the number indicating the upward semitone interval with which it is transposed Messiaen felt that these two modes (scales) had been used excessively by his predecessors so he liked to employ them where they could be hidden t0




Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK (pp. 96-7)

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Mode 2
is more often known as the octatonic scale is generated from a two-note cell transposed successively each transposition includes four major triads and is a rich resource of triads and other recognizable harmonies t0


first transposition blue-violet rocks speckled with little gray cubes, cobalt blue, deep Prussian blue, highlighted b y a bit of violet-purple, gold, red, ruby and stars of mauve, black and white. Blue violet is dominant. 76 Second transposition gold and silver spirals against a background of brown and ruby-red vertical stripes. Gold and brown are dominant. 77 third transposition light green and prairie-green foliage, with specks of blue, silver, and reddish orange. Dominant is green. 78 T2


Mode 3
extension of the hexatonic collection

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.55) 77 Ibid (pg.55) 78 Ibid (pg.55) 79 Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK (pg.97)


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made up of successive transpositions of a three-note cell (e.g. DEb-E natural) each transposition contains six each of major and minor triads, together with major seventh chords, dominant 7ths, half diminished 7ths, minor triads with a major 7th, and augmented triads.80 t0





Mode 4-7
used less frequently than Modes 1 & 2. Pople suggests that this might be because they are less individually distinctive. Mode 5 is a truncated form of both modes 4 & 6, which in turn are truncated forms of mode 7. 82 Each mode exists at six transpositional levels

Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.55) 81 Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK (pp. 97-8) 82 Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, New York (pg.98)


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Mode 4

Mode 5

Mode 6

Mode 7



Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK (pp. 98-9)

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Appendix 2

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Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France (pp. 1-14)

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Appendix 3

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References - Websites yPUNpW6isYEMi3KU&hl=en&ei=gwmaSYeRFdK6kAWwo_mdCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct= result (Accessed 2/02/09) (Accessed 2/02/09) (Accessed 4/02/09) Picture of Messiaen at the organ (Accessed 14/02/09) Aerial view of Stalag VIIIA (Accessed 22/02/09) Inside a Barrack Stalag VIIIA (Accessed 22/02/09) Between Barracks Stalag VIIIA (Accessed 22/02/09) William Pleeth Picture (Accessed 20/02/09) William Pleeth (Accessed 20/02/09) (accessed 20/02/09) Erich Gruenberg picture (Accessed 20/02/09) Erich Gruenberg (Accessed 3/03/09) (Accessed 3/03/09) Gervase de Peyer picture (Accessed 3/03/09) Gervase de Peyer (Accessed 5/03/09 Michel Boff (Accessed 9/03/09) (Accessed 9/0/09) (Accessed 9/0/09) Cover Picture (Accessed 9/03/09) Painting by Delaynay (Accessed 11/03/09)

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References - Books, Journals & CDs

Griffiths, Paul "Messiaen, Olivier." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 17 Feb. 2009 Machlis, Joseph (1979) Introduction to Contemporary Music Second Edition, Norton & Company, New York. Messiaen, O (1942) Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps, Durand, France. Messiaen, O (1956) Oliveier Messiaen Quatour pour la fin du temps, Accord/Universal, European Union. Messiaen, O (1968) Messiaen : Turangalila Symphonie Quatour pour la fin du temps, EMI. Pamela Weston. "De Peyer, Gervase." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed March 4, 2009). Pople, Anthony (2001) Quatour pour la fin du Temps, CUP, UK. Rischin, Rebecca (2003), For the End of Time, The Story of the Messiaen Quartet, Cornell University Press, new York Ross, Alex (2004) The Rest is Noise, The New Yorker, USA. Acessed 24/02/09

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