Preparing For the Worst

Olivier Messiaen | Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps | 2 of 2

05. Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus
07. Fouillis d’arcs-en-ciel, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps
08. Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus

Part 2 of 2. “The “Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps”, opus 48, is performed by Oganes Girunyan, violin, Stanislav Yankovsky, clarinet, Stanislav Ovchinnikov, cello and Dina Novikova, piano..

Quotations are translated from Messiaen’s Preface to the score.

• Louange à l’Éternité de Jésus

(V. “Eulogy to the eternity of Jesus”, for cello and piano.)

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))

The music is arranged from an earlier, unpublished piece, “Fêtes des belles eaux”. The tempo marking is infiniment lent (literally “infinitely slowly”).

An excerpt from Movement VI (“Danse de la fureur …”), which is played by all four instruments in unison. It shows Messiaen’s rhythmic technique, in which the underlying quavers (eighth notes) are alternately diminished to semiquavers (sixteenth notes) or augmented to dotted quavers.

• Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes

(VI. “Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets”, for the full quartet.)

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 non-retrogradable 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.

The theme returns fortissimo in augmentation and with wide changes of register towards the end of the movement.

• Fouillis d’arcs-en-ciel, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps

(VII. “Tangle of rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time”, for the full quartet.)

Recurring here are certain passages from the second movement. The angel appears in full force, especially the rainbow that covers him (the rainbow, symbol of peace, wisdom, and all luminescent and sonorous vibration). – In my dreams, I hear and see ordered chords and melodies, known colors 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 colors. These swords of fire, this blue-orange lava, these sudden stars: there is the tangle, there are the rainbows!

• Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus

(VIII. “Praise to the immortality of Jesus”, for violin and piano.)

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.

The music is an arrangement of the second part of his earlier organ piece, “Diptyque”, although raised in pitch by a major third from C to E.

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