Olivier Messiaen is an icon of 20th-century music and a model for later generations of world-famous composers. 52nd International Festival Wratislavia Cantans invites you to an excellent performance of one of the most poignant works of the artist, Quatuor pour la fin du temps.
The French composer was famous for his extraordinary gift of synesthesia, which became the basis for many of his works. Messiaen did not only heard sounds – he also saw them as colors. He discovered this ability as a teenager, watching the stained glass in one of the Parisian churches. The famous Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) was apparently inspired by the changing colors of the sunset Messiaen was watching. It was in the autumn of 1940, at the time the composer was confined in the POW camp Stalag VIII A in Görlitz. This is where he wrote the composition which premiered a year later. On the score, Messiaen wrote a sentence twice: “All of this is going to remain an attempt, a mere strive to find words, if only we realize the vastness of the subject”. He was, however, far from over-imposing the tragedy of the ongoing war on the piece and continuously argued with the first performers that the title of his work was in no way related to their stay in captivity. As he recalled, the work was written “for the end of the world, that is, for the end of the notions of past and future, and for the beginning of eternity”.
Moving, touching – because of the circumstances of its creation, but also thanks to music richness – Quatuor pour la fin du temps is overflowing with Messiaen-esque innovation. It features references to the composer's religious creations, as well as the songbirds that have inspired him over the years. Filled with various sounds, the expressive work consists of eight parts, some with biblical inspirations, mainly referring to the Apocalypse of St. John.