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QUATUOR POUR LA FIN DU TEM
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on May 20, 2004
The story goes like this. Olivier Messiaen - mystic, troubadour, lover - was minding his business one day, during World War 2, when the Nazis suddenly picked him up and threw him in a concentration camp. The world about Olivier was beset with darkness. Jews were being murdered, land was being stolen, lives were being cut to ribbons and blown to the wind and a great many decent, intelligent people were seriously worried that all of the good things in humanity and earth were going to be permanently destroyed. In this situation utter despair, imbecilic rage, or cold apathy were understandable responses. But not for that great frenchman Olivier Messiaen. Right in the middle of the citadel of darkness, using only a few instruments that came to hand, he composed the Quartet For The End of Time. And by doing so he destroyed the spirit of Naziism, vindicated humanity, and spoke a strange deep word to his God. The music is full of an alien loveliness. Its beauty is not burgeois. It is free and even terrifying. It wrestles with the powers of murder and despair and overcomes them in a way that is hard to describe. On one level the music almost ignores evil. It floats free from it and like a shaft of emerald fire it burns through cruel time into the heart of a calm but taut eternity. On another level the music could very well be called "The Transmutation of Unease". Pure distress is not abolished but siezed by a calm but powerful hand and pulled into a realm where it becomes something aureate. All of Olivier's music is a heroic endeavour but in a certain sense it begins with the Quartet. Stravinsky called Olivier's music "the slag heap of art" but Stravinsky did have his limits. Messiaen permanently takes us in all of his music to a place where the voices of birds are as terrifying as angels in a light that destroys evil by it transmutation.
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on April 24, 2001
This is a stunning performance of what may be the most accessible work of one of the icons of twentieth century composition.
Unlike other quartets, this composition is scored for the unusual combination of clarinet, cello, violin and piano. The eight movements are scored for different combinations of these instruments. The inspiration came from the book of revelation, and each movement is given a religious interpretation by the composer. But it may be best to simply forget about the program---the power of the music will come through after repeated listenings.
My favorite movements are the two louanges, particularly the last movement which is scored for violin and piano. This conclusion to the work conveys an incredible sense of peace and resignation.
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on April 24, 2001
This is a stunning performance of what may be the most accessible work of one of the icons of twentieth century composition.
Unlike other quartets, this composition is scored for the unusual combination of clarinet, cello, violin and piano. The eight movements are scored for different combinations of these instruments. The inspiration came from the book of revelation, and each movement is given a religious interpretation by the composer. But it may be best to simply forget about the program---the power of the music will come through after repeated listenings.
My favorite movements are the two louanges, particularly the last movement which is scored for violin and piano. This conclusion to the work conveys an incredible sense of peace and resignation.
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on September 7, 2002
There is only one way to describe the recording of this monumental work: Incredible. This ensemble is made of the best musicians in the world. With the ominous timbre of Paul Meyer, the technical virtousity of Myung-Whun Chung, and the sorrowfull, tear jerking musicality of Gil Shaham and Jian Wang, this recording stands out as an icon of what true virtousity is. The blend of these four is precise, full, and pure, but most importantly, the music being made is unreserved and inspiring.
This is powerful music played by four powerhouse musicians. This recording is one of the best recordings I have in my library. There is no doubt in my mind that these musicians' interpretation of the Messiaen will be remembered as legendary.
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