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19. 8. 2008




Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist.. He was appointed organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post he held until his death. On the fall of France (In World War II, the Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, executed from 10 May 1940, which ended the Phony War.)  in 1940 Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, and while incarcerated he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments, piano, violin, cello, and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners to an audience of inmates and prison guards. Messiaen was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Loriod (who later became Messiaen's second wife), Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, William Bolcom, and George Benjamin.



Finding a violinist, ( Jean le Boulaire), a cellist ( Étienne Pasquier) and a clarinetist ( Henri Akoka) among his fellow prisoners, he wrote a short trio for them. He later wrote the Quatuor for the same trio, plus himself at the piano. This combination of instruments is unusual, but not without precedent: Walter Rabl had composed for the same forces in 1896, and Paul Hindemith in 1938. The Quartet was allegedly premiered to an audience of 5,000 fellow prisoners of war and prison guards in Stalag VIII-A in Görlitz, Germany (currently Zgorzelec, Poland.) on January 15, 1941: but there is reason to suspect that the audience may in fact have been much smaller. Messiaen later recalled the occasion: "Never have I been heard with as much attention and understanding."



Messiaen wrote in the preface to the score that the work was inspired by text from the tenth chapter of the Book of Revelation:

"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire… and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth… And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever,… that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished…"