Tuesday, January 26, 2010

02/22/2010 @ 6:15 p.m.: Noteworthy Duo

Flutist Lisa Schroeder and classical guitarist Michael Nigro present a program of Latin American music.

Lisa Schroeder and Michael Nigro join their musical talents to create Noteworthy Duo. Their vision is to reach a non-classical audience, inspire the classical listener, and to touch just one life with a "noteworthy" performance. Noteworthy’s interest in South American Music can be heard throughout their extensive flute and guitar repertoire.

This past year, the duo toured to 23 states in the U.S., playing concerts, live television programs, and radio shows. Their debut CD, entitled “Between Guitar and Flute” was released in February 2009. Lisa and Michael are both on faculty at Vanguard University of Southern California.

During the course of their concerts, in an informal manner, Michael and Lisa often include commentary, information, and anecdotes about the composers and pieces they are performing. Their striking ability to communicate with their audience makes "Noteworthy" performances seem more like an intimate gathering of friends than a recital for strangers. They have received rave reviews for their concerts across the country, “Noteworthy’s concert was a highlight of our concert season. Michael and Lisa play as if they have performed together forever--with joy, superb musicianship and impressive ensemble. From their first moments on stage through the last piece, Michael and Lisa kept the audience absorbed with their expressive playing and engaging commentary. This was a first-rate concert experience.” (Atonement Lutheran Church Boulder, CO)

  • Bordel 1900 & Café (from Histoire du Tango)

  • Fantasía Mulata

  • Milonga & Vals Peruano [Guitar solo]

  • Pé de Moleque (samba chorô) & Pacoco (chorô)

  • Al Compas de la Viguela (Abusete—Brota un Lamento Sentido—Meticuloso)

  • Etude No. 3 [Flute solo]

  • Suite Buenos Aires (Pompeya — Palermo — San Telmo — Microcentro)

    Flutist Lisa Schroeder is a Los Angeles based performer, teacher, and clinician. As a Solo Artist with Altus Flutes, and as flutist with Noteworthy Duo, Lisa has established herself as a first-rate artist and teacher, performing in Concerts and giving Master Classes across the United States and Europe. She is the winner of the 2009 National Flute Association Convention Performers Competition, and a consecutive winner (2008, 2009) of the Professional Flute Choir Competition in which she performed principal bass flute at the Kansas City and New York City Conventions. Her expressive playing transports the audience into the music and has received praise from the flute community. Gary Schocker, a renowned flutist/composer/pianist, states “Lisa Schroeder is a dynamic performer who brings her own style to the flute.”

    As a high school junior, she attended the esteemed Interlochen Center for the Arts and knew from that moment on that she was destined to be a flute performer. Lisa began her collegiate music studies at Eastern Michigan University and later relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from Middle Tennessee State University. While in Nashville, Lisa gained experience in performing, teaching, and recording session work with area singer/songwriters. She held the piccolo position in the Tennessee Philharmonic and the flute position with the Music City Winds.

    In 2002, Lisa performed in the John Barcellona Master Class in Kentucky, after which the internationally acclaimed flute performer/teacher invited her to study with him in Southern California. She in turn received her Master of Music degree in flute performance from California State University Long Beach. Her interest in new music inspired a thesis entitled, “Twentieth-Century Techniques in Flute Literature: Learning and Teaching Multiphonics”.

    Lisa Schroeder has performed in Master Classes with Gary Schocker, Peter Lloyd, Michel Debost, Debora Harris, Angeleita Floyd, John Barcellona, Jim Walker and Sir James Galway. Her primary teachers have included Dr. John Barcellona, Dr. Yvonne Chavez-Hansbrough, Dr. Deanna Hahn-Little, Dr. Julie Stone, and Ann Richards of the Nashville Symphony.

    Mrs. Schroeder currently teaches flute at Vanguard University of Southern California, Cerritos College, Golden West College, and directs the Rolling Hills Flute Choir. Her passion for teaching has brought about her annual “Flute Loops” camp held in Palos Verdes, CA.

    Michael Anthony Nigro showed an interest in the guitar at an early age and began playing by the age of 12. After several years of lessons with local teachers and self-study, he attended the prestigious Indiana University School of Music where he graduated with his Bachelor of Music Degree in 2000 under the direction of Ernesto Bitetti.

    After moving back to his native Southern California, he attended California State University, Fullerton and earned a Master of Music degree under the tutelage of David Grimes.

    Michael Nigro’s debut recording, “Homage to Piazzolla; Argentine Dances, Songs, and Rhythms,” is released on the label, Music & Arts. The American Record Guide stated, “Nigro has a big sound, a smooth tone, and sure-footed interpretive instincts.” His latest CD, “Guitar Sudamericana,” is released on the Austrian label, Balcon Records and features guitar works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antonio Lauro, Adolfo Luna, Jose Luis Merlin, and many others.

    As a performer and teacher, Michael has played concerts and Master Classes at many esteemed colleges which include Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona, Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Marlyhurst College in Portland, Oregon, William Jessup University in Rocklin, California and many others.

    Michael is an active member of the guitar community; he is co-founder of the Long Beach Classical Guitar Society, independent reviewer of new music publications for Soundboard Magazine, and sought after teacher and performer.

    In January 2006, Michael joined the faculty at Vanguard University of Southern California where he teaches private guitar, class guitar, and guitar ensemble. Mr. Nigro is endorsed by for Savarez Strings exclusively.

    Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992) pretty much single-handedly reinvented the Argentine national dance, the tango, transforming it into a new style aptly called nuevo tango ("new tango"). Born in Argentina, Piazzolla spent most of his childhood in New York, and there he gained exposure to and a fondness for jazz and classical music. But through his father's influence he also gained proficiency on the bandoneón, a type of concertina that is a staple of Argentine tango ensembles, and when he returned to Argentina in 1937 he played with some of the leading bands in Buenos Aires. He also began the serious study of composition with noted composer Alberto Ginastera, and for an early symphony he won a grant in 1953 to study in Paris with legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger convinced him to toss out his early works that that sounded derivative of other composers, and concentrate on his own unique style that arose from Argentine dance music. When he returned to Argentina in 1955, his "new tango," which infused traditional elements with characteristics of jazz and incorporated contrapuntal techniques and formal elements adapted from his classical studies, was met with resistance in his homeland, but Europeans and North Americans were captivated by it and his international career blossomed. It is estimated that he composed over a staggering 3,000 pieces, and he recorded about 500 of them himself! The original four movements of flute and guitar suite L'histoire du tango (History of the Tango) trace the development of the tango, beginning with Bordel 1900, inspired by its early roots at the fringes of society, followed by Café 1930, that demonstrates the somewhat more polite style that became the most popular dance throughout the whole of Argentina. Piazzolla’s six Études tanguistiques ("Tango Studies") for solo flute were written in 1987, and have also become popular in a transcription for solo violin. Étude No. 3 is a florid virtuoso piece with quickly shifting textures that sometimes give the impression that more than one flute is playing!

    Although composer and guitarist Ernesto Cordero (b. 1946) was born in New York, he grew up in Puerto Rico and joined the guitar and composition faculty at the University of Puerto Rico in 1971. His works often draw inspiration from the folk music of the Caribbean, and particularly from the Afro-Hispanic music of Puerto Rico. Like many guitarists he favors his own instrument when composing, and his catalog includes six concertos (three for guitar, one for violin/mandolin, one for flute-piccolo and one for the Puerto Rican cuatro), a variety of chamber works with guitar, as well as solos pieces. The recipient of several important composition awards, his music is performed and recorded worldwide, and he is in demand as a participant in international competitions and festivals for the guitar.

    Argentine composer and musicologist Jorge Cardoso (b. 1949) is internationally renowned as a guitarist and lecturer, and in his spare time he's also a medical doctor! Most of his 350+ solo, chamber and orchestral works naturally feature his own instrument, and, in addition to receiving frequent worldwide performances, many have been recorded by over 100 different guitarists. Considered a leading authority on the music of Latin America, his original compositions are infused with characteristics derived from South America's musical heritage.

    CLICK HERE to watch the composer perform Milonga on YouTube.

    Celso Machado (b. 1953) has been living in Vancouver since 1989, but he is originally from Brazil. The decision to become a professional musician was an easy one: his father was a guitarist and band leader in Brazil, and five of his six brothers are also musicians. Celso himself began playing in street bands when he was 7 years old, and although he performs internationally as a guitar virtuoso, he plays percussion and other instruments as well. His recordings are critically acclaimed, and for the film In the Company of Fear he won a Canadian Leo Award for Best Musical Score for Documentary in 2000. The music and rhythms of his homeland continue to permeate his music, but he also includes other folk traditions among his influences, and he has collaborated extensively with Chinese pipa (lute) player Qiu Xia He. The chôro form is the oldest and perhaps most important musical form associated with Brazil, and from it developed the popular samba of the 1960s. Even though the term "chôro" originally referred to "a cry of lament," chôros are often happy, lively virtuoso pieces, and they have long been associated with flute and guitar.

    In 1989 the Argentine Composers' Union named Máximo Diego Pujol (b. 1957) as their country's "Best Composer of Classical Music," and his harmonically rich works have won composition awards in Colombia, France and Martinique. Pujol is influenced by his homeland's most famous composer of tangos, Ástor Piazzolla, and in his Suite Buenos Aires, Pujol specifies more immediate inspiration. With this work the composer offers a personal tour of his hometown, beginning in the respective working-class and Italian neighborhoods of Pompeya and Palermo, then through the fashionable San Telmo area with its cafés and antique shops, and ending in the bustling Microcentro, the city's business and commercial hub.

    CLICK HERE to watch a performance of San Telmo on YouTube.
  • Thursday, January 14, 2010

    02/09/2010 @ 6:15 p.m.: Wonkak Kim, clarinet

    Award-winning clarinetist Wonkak Kim has dazzled audiences with playing that is “virtuosic and stirring” (Journal de Morges, Switzerland). Collaborating with Mr. Kim is pianist Grace Eun-Hye Choi.

    Program Selections
  • Gioacchino ROSSINI : Introduction, Theme and Variations (1812)
  • Edward LEIN : September
  • Alban BERG : 4 Stücke, Op. 5
  • François DEVIENNE : Sonata in E-flat, Op. 28, No. 2
  • Charles-Marie WIDOR : Introduction et Rondo, Op. 72

    Hailed by critics around the world as “excellent” (The Washington Post) and as a “tour de force” (Classical Voice of North Carolina), clarinetist Wonkak Kim has quickly established himself at the forefront of his generation, concertizing throughout the United States, Costa Rica, South Korea and Europe. Mr. Kim, who began studying clarinet with Kenneth Lee at the age of fifteen, has been a featured soloist with more than a dozen orchestras, performing concertos by Mozart, Nielsen, Spohr, Weber, and Copland. As a prizewinner of numerous national and international competitions, he has appeared in Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, German Embassy in Washington D.C., and Constitution Hall.

    Kim is frequently in demand as a soloist and chamber musician music festivals and artist series, including the Promising Artists of the 21st Century (San Jose, Costa Rica), OK Mozart Festival, William S. Newman Artist Series, Cours International de Music (Morges, Switzerland), Chapel Hill Chamber Music Workshop, Fantasia Cultural Management (Seoul, South Korea) and COEX Artist Series (Seoul, South Korea). He has also performed as a guest principal clarinetist with the Tallahassee Symphony, Albany Symphony (Albany, Georgia), and Sinfonia Gulf Coast Orchestras (Destin, Florida).

    An avid chamber musician, Kim is a founding member of enhakē, top-prize-winner of the Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition (2009), International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition (2008) and the Plowman Chamber Music Competition (2008), which recently made a highly acclaimed debut at Weill Recital Hall (NYC). Kim recently commissioned a work from renowned American composer Libby Larsen, which will be premiered in Carnegie Hall in 2010.

    Keen to exploit his artistic talent, Kim has worked with various media to explore new aspects of classical music and visual arts, including a collaboration with Nuria Schoenberg Nono in Arnold Schoenberg: Photo Album with Music (2004) held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, an appearance in Classical Music and Paintings (2005) broadcast by PBS in South Korea, and with the Tallahassee Ballet Company in its annual production of An Evening of Music and Dance.

    As an educator and clinician, Kim has given lectures and master classes at Florida State University, Valdosta State University (Valdosta, GA), Mesa State College, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Costa Rica, and the National Superior Institute of Music (Costa Rica). As a member of enhakē, Kim is an artist-in-residence of the Tallahassee Youth Orchestra and actively participates in local educational outreach program.

    Kim holds degrees in Mathematics (BA) and Music (BM) from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with full scholarship. He received a Master of Music in Clarinet Performance at Florida State University as a Teaching Assistant to Dr. Frank Kowalsky, where he was nominated for the University’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for the 2007-8 academic year. Currently a Doctoral candidate at FSU, his major teachers have been Donald Oehler and Frank Kowalsky.

    Korean pianist Grace Eun-Hye Choi began playing the piano at the age of six. Choi has won several competitions in her native country and performed extensively as a collaborative pianist, including at the Hi Seoul Festival, COEX Arts Center, National Theatre of Korea, among many other venues. Recently her performance at the Hot Springs Music Festival was broadcasted on NPR’s Performance Today, and she has been invited to serve as a staff accompanist at the Interlochin Academcy’s Summer Arts Camp. Choi studied piano with Andreas Ehret and composition (BM) with Ji-Sun Lim and In-Yong La at Yonsei University in Korea. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in piano accompanying at Florida State University, studying under Dr. Carolyn Bridger.

    PROGRAM NOTES by Ed Lein, Music Librarian
    By 1829, when Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) retired after the premiere of Guillaume Tell, his 39th opera, he had become the most popular composer in the history of music for the stage, and his Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville, 1816) retains its place as one of the most frequently staged Italian operas. In Introduction, Theme and Variations (or, Andante e Tema con variazioni, 1812), the second of his two early sets of variations featuring the clarinet, Rossini follows the introductory section with a lively melody and its five variations to showcase the coloratura capabilities of the clarinet in precisely the same manner he would showcase a singer—Rossini reused the tune in the cavatina for “Malcolm” in his 1819 opera, La donna del lago.

    CLICK HERE for a performance on YouTube of the original version with orchestra.

    Florida native Edward Lein (b. 1955) is the Music Librarian at Jacksonville Public Library's Main Library, and holds Master's degrees in both Music Theory and Library Science from Florida State University. As a tenor soloist he appeared in recitals, oratorios and dramatic works throughout his home state, and drawing on his performance experience the majority of his early compositions are vocal works. Following peformances of pieces by the Jacksonville Symphony, including Meditation for cello, oboe and orchestra (premiered June 2006) and In the Bleak Midwinter (premiered December 2007), his instrumental catalog has grown largely due to requests from Symphony players for new pieces. September (2008, dedicated to Music @ Main volunteer Betsy Ferraro) is a straightforward arrangement of a song composed on a text by American poet Carlos Wilcox (1794-1827), that begins, “The sultry summer past, September comes, Soft twilight of the slow-declining year.” The sustained lyricism of the music, essentially a waltz sandwiched between a contemplative introduction and its reprise, aims to capture the poet’s Romantic mixture of melancholy reflection and awestruck wonder, as the fading summer gives way to shorter days amid the glittering beauty of fall foliage mirrored in a mountain creek.

    CLICK HERE for the complete text of the "September" poem and to hear a recording.

    The Austrian Alban Berg (1885-1935) is one of few composers of predominantly “atonal” music (i.e., music that deliberately avoids musical scales and harmonies centering around a specific keynote) who has sustained a following among the concert-going populace, particularly with his ground-breaking operas, Wozzeck (1922, the first full-length atonal opera) and Lulu (1935, the first 12-tone opera), and his moving Violin Concerto (1935). According to social philosopher Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) who studied music composition with Berg in the 1920s, Berg’s atmospheric and freely-atonal Vier Stücke, Op. 5 (“Four Pieces,” 1913), might be regarded as a condensed version of the four-movement sonata archetype as brought to fruition by Beethoven, with Berg’s 7½-minute version appearing “in rudimentary, shriveled form,” and “everywhere and immediately creating, shattering, abandoning, reintroducing, and rounding off remnants” of its musical motifs. It is perhaps easy to suppose that Beethoven (had he been around and not deaf) might have slapped the budding composer for such a conceit, but it is surprising that Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Berg’s teacher and adopted father-figure, apparently gave his pupil a brow-beating for not producing more extended compositions, especially since Schoenberg’s own brief piano works served as a model for Berg’s Pieces. Berg took the criticism to heart and abandoned miniature forms in favor of large-scale works, ultimately demonstrating a communicative power his mentor’s own atonal oeuvre has proven unable to match.

    CLICK HERE for a performance on YouTube.

    French composer François Devienne (1759-1803) joined the Paris Opéra orchestra in the fall of 1779 as its last-chair bassoonist, but over the course of just a few years he had become something of a fixture at the famous Lenten Concert Spirituel series, as composer and as featured soloist on both flute and bassoon. By 1792 he was well established as a flute teacher, and was appointed as flute professor and an administrator at what became the Paris Conservatoire. He penned an influential method for flute performance (1794), and he became famous as an opera composer, especially for Les visitandines (1792) which enjoyed over 200 performances during its first 5 years. Many of Devienne’s 500-plus compositions were published during his lifetime, and as might be expected these include an impressive body of works featuring flute and bassoon. According to New Grove, Devienne’s 12 Sonatas for Clarinet and Continuo were originally for flute, and they exhibit the graceful elegance that has earned him the nickname, “The French Mozart.”

    Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) was the preeminent organist in Paris at the turn into the 20th Century, and he taught both organ and composition at the Paris Conservatoire to students including Vierne, Dupré, Honegger, Milhaud, and Varèse, as well as Albert Schweizer with whom he annotated an edition of the organ works of J.S. Bach. Although his output includes operas, symphonies, concertos and a variety of chamber music, as a composer Widor is remembered mostly for his 10 symphonies for solo organ, a form he pioneered, and most especially for the famous Toccata finale of his Organ Symphony No. 5, Op. 42, no. 1. His idiomatic and virtuosic Introduction et Rondo, op. 72, was written in 1898 to fill a request from the Paris Conservatoire for a solo de concours (i.e., solo competition piece) for clarinet with piano. It remains a favorite of accomplished clarinetists, allowing the soloist ample opportunity to showcase both versatility and technique by alternating lyrical melodies with bravura passage work.

    CLICK HERE for a performance on YouTube.

  • 02/01/2010: Trio Solis with Deborah Bish

    Founded in 2008, Trio Solis combines three dynamic virtuosi:

        Corinne Stillwell (violin),
        Gregory Sauer (cello), and
        Read Gainsford (piano)

    Since their Music @ Main concert in January 2009, subsequent performances by the faculty artists from Florida State University's College of Music included an engagement at New York's Carnegie Hall in May 2009, where they played the Trio by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich with the composer in attendance.

    Joining Trio Solis is Deborah Bish, Associate Professor of Clarinet at Florida State University.

  • Olivier Messiaen
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  • Olivier Messiaen
    Quatuor pour la fin du temps
    1. Liturgie de cristal ("Liturgy of crystal")
    2. Vocalise, pour l'Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps ("Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of time")
    3. Abîme des oiseaux ("Abyss of birds", for solo clarinet)
    4. Intermède ("Interlude", for violin, cello, and clarinet)
    5. Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus ("Praise to the eternity of Jesus", for cello and piano)
    6. Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes ("Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets")
    7. Fouillis d'arcs-en-ciel, pour l'Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps ("Tangle of rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time")
    8. Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus "Praise to the immortality of Jesus", for violin and piano)

              Olivier Messiaen in the Library's Catalog

    Corrine Stillwell
    Corinne Stillwell (violin) earned her degrees from The Juilliard School, where she first enrolled at age ten. A versatile musician, she has appeared in recital at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall, on the Dame Myra Hess series in Chicago, and as soloist with numerous orchestras across the United States and on tour in Eastern Europe. Her chamber music activities have included performances at Alice Tully Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, and at the festivals of Aspen, Norfolk, Skaneateles, the Victoria Bach Festival, and the International Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas. Frequently heard on WXXI-FM public radio, she has collaborated with David Shifrin, Robert Levin, Pepe Romero, members of the Pro Arte and Cavani quartets, and members of the faculty at the Eastman School of Music. She has served as Assistant Concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic and prior to that, was a member of the Harrington String Quartet in Amarillo, Texas. In 2007, Ms. Stillwell joined the faculty at Florida State's College of Music, where she is Assistant Professor of Violin.


    Greg Sauer
    Praised for his versatility, Gregory Sauer (cello) has appeared in numerous solo recitals, including performances at the Old First Concert Series in San Francisco, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and the Brightmusic Concert Series in Oklahoma City, and numerous chamber music performances have included appearances at Tanglewood, Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Promusica, and the Boulder Modern Music Festival, among many others. Greg has performed concertos with the Houston Symphony, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, the Quad City Symphony, and Oklahoma City Philharmonic, to name only a few. A Prizewinner in the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and Ima Hogg national competitions, he served nine seasons as principal cellist of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Sauer is Assistant Principal Cello of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and, prior to joining the Florida State University music faculty in 2006, he taught at the University of Oklahoma for 11 years, where he was named Presidential Professor in 2005.


    Read Gainsford
    Read Gainsford (piano) has performed widely in the USA, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and his native New Zealand as solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He has made successful solo debuts at the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, and has performed in many other prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Barbican Centre, Fairfield Halls, Birmingham Town Hall and St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. Dr. Gainsford has recorded for the Amoris label, BBC Radio Three, Radio New Zealand's Concert Programme, and has broadcast on national television in New Zealand, the UK, and Yugoslavia. Since moving to the United States in 1992, Read has been a guest artist for the American Music Teachers Association, has appeared at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and the Music Festival of the Hamptons, and has spent several summers at the Heifetz International Music Institute. He is a member of the contemporary music group Ensemble X, and also the Garth Newel Chamber Players. Formerly on the faculty of Ithaca College where he received the college-wide Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004, Dr. Gainsford became Associate Professor of Piano at FSU in 2005.


    Deborah Bish is Associate Professor of Clarinet at Florida State University. Before moving to Tallahassee in 2001, she served as the professor of clarinet at Henderson State University. She has performed with orchestras throughout the United States, including the Arizona Opera (most notably in a production of Wagner's Ring Cycle), the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, and the Arkansas Symphony, and she now performs with the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. She has been featured as a recitalist, clinician, and chamber musician at several prestigious festivals and conventions, including a 2004 performance at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall. Bish is very active in the commission, research, and performance of new works, including an upcoming recording of the works of Gregory Wanamaker and a biography of clarinetist and composer William O. Smith. Prof. Bish holds degrees from Arizona State University and Florida State University.


    Program Notes by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

    Among the most significant composers of the 20th Century, France’s Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was also a noted organist, music theorist, and extremely influential teacher. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1919 (at age 11), was organist at Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris from 1931 to 1978, and joined the faculty of the Paris Conservatory in 1941. Just prior to this latter appointment, Messiaen, who had been serving in the French army's medical auxiliary, was imprisoned in a concentration camp when the Germans occupied France in 1940, and it was while he was a prisoner that he composed and first performed his best-known work, Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the End of Time"). The instrumentation was determined by the players who were available (also prisoners), and Messiaen, a devout Roman Catholic, states in the score that the work is directly inspired by passages from the Biblical 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 swore 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.
    Of its eight movements, the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th use the full quartet, while the others use one to three instruments from the ensemble. The 3rd is a demanding slow movement for clarinet solo, and the 4th is a scherzo-like movement that omits the piano. The 5th, for cello and piano, and the 8th, for violin and piano, were both adapted by Messiaen from earlier pieces.

    Like most of Messian's works, the Quartet is rhythmically complex, and the melodies and harmonies make use of non-traditional scales which deliberately avoid definite tonal centers. Messiaen considered himself as much an ornithologist as a musician, and birdsong often plays a key role in his music, as in the first movement which includes imitations of blackbirds (in the clarinet) and nightingales (in the violin). The unison instruments in the 6th movement are meant to imitate gongs and trumpets, and the movement illustrates the composer's fascination with augmented and diminishing rhythmic patterns. The 2nd and 7th movements share thematic materials, and the rainbows that Messiaen describes as accompanying the angel were more than mere fancy for the composer--he had a benign neurological condition called synaesthesia which caused him to experience colors when he heard music.

    Listen at Youtube.com to the 1st movement; 2nd movement; 6th movement; 7th movement