Olivier Messiaen was born December 10, 1908.
Some composers take you into another world, far removed but instantly recognizable. That would be Olivier Messiaen. The coordinates of his paradise would be: the post-Debussy continuum, serialism and its discontents, Roman Catholicism, mysticism, Hindu rhythms, ancient Greece, ecstasy (the feeling not the drug) pipe organs, and birdsong, birdsong, and more birdsong. Twenty three years after his passing, I find it astonishing to have lived in his time. He was one of the rare composers who created masterworks throughout his life, from the great organ works of the 1930s to his one and only opera, Saint Francis d’Assise, which was completed in 1983.
We will hear samplings from throughout his career, from the epically giddy Turangalila-Symphonie, to his swan song, Eclairs sur l’au-dela. In between there will be selections from the organ works and his great piano series Vingt Regards sur L’enfant Jesus, a riotous performance of Oiseaux Exotiques by Wild Up, and one complete tableau from St Francis. Pay particular attention to the latter. While a 3+ hour opera in which little happens may not be for everybody, here, with the benign hero finding enlightenment amidst choruses of birds, it is as if Messiaens whole being and belief is living on the stage.