Messiaen's Final Works  book cover
1st Edition

Messiaen's Final Works

ISBN 9781138252721
Published August 26, 2016 by Routledge
392 Pages

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Book Description

When Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) completed the vast opera Saint François d’Assise in 1983, he was mentally and physically exhausted, and believed that this monumental work would be his final compositional statement. In fact, he completed seven further works, and these form the focus of the present study. Christopher Dingle suggests that, following the crisis provoked by the opera, Messiaen's music underwent a discernible change in style. He examines these seven works to identify characteristics of the composer's music, in particular an often overlooked aspect of his technique: harmony. Part I of the book begins with a brief historical survey before discussing Saint François d’Assise as the work which defines everything that follows. Part II examines the series of miniatures that came after the opera and their links with Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà..., his final masterpiece. Éclairs forms the subject of Part III of the book. Each movement is analysed in turn, before the work is considered as a whole and its hidden structure and motivic cohesion is revealed. Finally, Part IV considers the incomplete Concert à 4 and key stylistic features of the works of Messiaen’s final years.

Table of Contents

Contents: Part I Final Works: The end; A few techniques from Messiaen’s musical language; Messiaen’s final work? Saint François d’Assise; Messiaen’s final (organ) work: Livre du Saint Sacrement. Part II The Miniatures: Introduction to the miniatures; A work for Yvonne Loriod: Petites Esquisses d’oiseaux; Two works for Boulez: Un Vitrail et des oiseaux pour piano solo et petit orchestre and La Ville d'En-Haut pour piano solo et petit orchestre; A work for Mozart: Un Sourire pour orchestre; A work for Alfred Schlee: Pièce pour piano et quatuor à cordes; The miniatures: an overview. Part III Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà...: Introduction to Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà...; I. Apparition du Christ glorieux; II. la constellation du Sagittaire; III. l'Oiseau-Lyre et la Ville-Fiancée; IV. les élus marqués du sceau; V. Demeurer dans l'Amour...; VI. les sept Anges aux sept trompettes; VII. et le Dieu essuiera toutes larmes de leurs yeux...; VIII. les étoiles et la Gloire; IX. plusieurs oiseaux des arbres de Vie; X. le chemin de l’Invisible; XI. le Christ, lumière du Paradis; Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà...: fundamental harmonic structure, developments of themes and overview. Part IV Final Thoughts?: Death and a new work: Concert à quatre pour flûte solo, hautbois solo, violoncelle solo, piano solo et orchestre; Messiaen’s latest style; Appendices; Select bibliography; Discography; Index.

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Christopher Dingle is Reader in Music at Birmingham Conservatoire, UK. He is the author of the acclaimed biography The Life of Messiaen (Cambridge University Press), co-editor of Olivier Messiaen: Music, Art and Literature (Ashgate) and is editing, with Robert Fallon, two further collections of essays, Messiaen Perspectives 1: Sources and Influences and Messiaen Perspectives 2: Techniques, Influence and Reception (both Ashgate). He is also editing The Cambridge History of Music Criticism (CUP, forthcoming) and is a member of the review panel for BBC Music Magazine.


’Christopher Dingle’s finely detailed accounts of the music of Messiaen's last years reveal a fascinating creative renewal, marked by a luminous sound world and a fresh rapprochement with the composer’s earlier music. Particularly welcome and revealing are the accounts of the undervalued miniatures and Éclairs. Dingle’s demonstration of Messiaen’s structural use of harmony will surely lead to a reappraisal of all Messiaen’s music, challenging as it does the orthodox view that his music is static and non-developing. Enriched by biographical detail and unpublished source material, this important book will be essential reading for all those interested in the life and works of one of the great figures of twentieth-century music.’ Peter Hill, University of Sheffield, UK 'This is a terrific book... As well as filling out our knowledge and appreciation of what went into Messiaen’s late works, this book is also a magnificent resource.' MusicWeb International 'Christopher Dingle expertly interweaves biographical detail with scrupulous analytical insight, and the sheer scope of his investigation will surely cement his position as one of the leading Messiaen scholars of his generation. Christopher Dingle’s book has made an excellent and provocative opening into an intriguing area of study. It fully deserves its place on the shelf of any Messiaen scholar.' H-France Review '... ce livre plutôt agréable à lire, généreusement illustré par de nombreux exemples musicaux et assorti d’annexes et appendices fort utiles. Son utilité auprès des spécialistes de la musique du vingtième siècle [...] est assuré pour les années à venir. [... this book [is] rather enjoyable to read, generously illustrated with numerous music examples and accompanied by useful annexes and appendices. Its usefulness among specialists of twentieth-century music [...] is assured for years to come.]' Revue de Musicologie ’L’indubbio valore del notevole lavoro critico e