Monday, October 6, 2008

Semiannual Messiaen-blogging

Photograph of this blogger Iannis Xenakis with Olivier Messiaen

The Messiaen centenary has not figured prominently in the Canadian or American election campaigns, but let it not be said that TBWCTW failed to cover the event! (I have a horror that I will be judged and found wanting by future generations based on my Messiaenic accomplishments this year - "Daddy, what did you do in the Messiaen centenary?" If the centenary had come about five years later in my organ-playing career, I might be able to consider attempting the complete works, but this year it's out of the question, and I feel a sense of lingering inadequacy.) Plenty has been written about Messiaen elsewhere, of course. Alex Ross has a roundup of the major Messiaenical events in North America, and links to the even more thorough Messiaen 2008 website, with its comprehensive listing of Messiaen concerts worldwide throughout the centenary year. The actual date of Messiaen's 100th birthday is December 10th, a day on which Messiaen lovers can look forward to these events, among others:

Salle Pleyel, Paris, France: Turangalila-Symphonie (Christoph Eschenbach)
La Trinite, Paris, France: Anniversary Mass
Royal Holloway College, Surrey, U. K.: Messiaen organ recital (Gillian Weir)
Royal Festival Hall, London, U. K.: Sept Haikai, Couleurs de la Cite Celeste (Pierre Boulez)
University of Glasgow, Scotland: La Nativite du Seigneur (John Butt)
New Caledonia: Quatuor pour le fin de temps

Messiaen lovers are rarely this spoiled for choice - generally, you wait years to catch any of the major orchestral works in live performance. I am particularly delighted to see New Caledonia as a venue for Messiaen performances on the day of his centenary; it seems appropriate, given Messiaen's birdsong-collecting expeditions in New Caledonia, that this tiny Pacific island should offer its own salute to the composer.

I myself hope to spend the anniversary day in Montreal, where the Automne Messiaen festival is proceeding apace. With Messiaen protege Kent Nagano at the helm of the OSM, a thriving organ culture and a number of Messiaen's former pupils now respected Quebecois composers in their own right, it's hard to imagine a better place for a Messiaen festival. The schedule is jaw-dropping - far from being a token gesture in the composer's memory, this festival encompasses practically Messiaen's complete oeuvre - including a complete performance of Saint Francois under Nagano's baton.

As far as I'm concerned, you can never have too much Messiaen, although not everyone agrees - several of my friends plan to be washing their hair for the duration of the Automne Messiaen festival in Montreal. However, for the next few months, we Messiaeniacs are running the world, and I plan to take full advantage. It is worth pointing out, too, that the centenary does not end on December 31st - it begins only on December 10th, the actual anniversary of his birth, and will continue until that date in 2009. Plan concert programmes accordingly.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'd like to say, Osbert, that I was trying to that Saint Francois concert we had spoken about earlier on Google, and this blog post was the second search result. Bravo!

An anonymous friend/relative.