Concert à quatre

Last updated

Concert à quatre (Concerto for four) is one of the final works of the French composer Olivier Messiaen. It is written for four solo instruments (piano, cello, flute, oboe) and orchestra.

Contents

Composition

Messiaen first considered writing an oboe concerto for Heinz Holliger, then a piece for oboe, cello, piano, harp and orchestra on the subject of Grace. [1]

In its final form (oboe, cello, piano, flute and orchestra), Concert à quatre was conceived in 1990 and begun in the summer of 1991. Messiaen worked on it steadily until December of that year. He originally intended the piece to have five movements, but at the beginning of 1992 his decline in health slowed the piece's progress and ultimately prevented him from completing it before his death. [1]

As it stands, the work is in four movements, in which Messiaen draws inspiration from Mozart, Scarlatti and Rameau as well as from his usual birdsong transcriptions. His notes also mention Dutilleux and the orchestration of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit by Constant. [1]

Of the completed movements, Messiaen's widow, Yvonne Loriod, in conjunction with the composers George Benjamin and Heinz Holliger, orchestrated the second half of the first movement and the whole of the fourth. Messiaen described the latter in the draft score as "completely reviewed - good in terms of sonority, length and dynamics". [1] Furthermore, Messiaen had intended to include a free meter sequence based on various birdsongs. To write it, Loriod used similar sketches discarded from his opera Saint François d'Assise and included them in that last movement. [1] [2] She also added a chorus of bells from the same source. [2]

Messiaen had intended the fifth movement to be a fugue but as he had not even sketched it, it could not be completed and was thus left out of the final version. [2]

It was written for five musicians he felt particularly grateful to: the pianist Yvonne Loriod (his wife), the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, the oboist Heinz Holliger, the flautist Catherine Cantin, and the conductor Myung-Whun Chung.

The score was published by Éditions Leduc in 2003. [3] [4]

Music

The first movement (Entrée) is bipartite and juxtaposes several musical ideas: a theme inspired by Susanna's aria Venite inginocchiatevi in Act 2 of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro , birdsong transcriptions (garden warbler as well as birds of New Zealand like the blue-wattled crow, the bush canary and the kakapo), a call and response of short melodic cells, a section for wind machine, strings and cymbal and two conclusive chords. That sequence is then repeated and amplified in the second part. [5]

The second movement is an orchestral transcription of Messiaen's own Vocalise of 1935. This transcription was written first and was the impetus for the whole work. [5]

The third movement (Cadenza), as its title suggests, focuses almost exclusively on the four soloists. It features the lyrebird (cello), the musician wren (flute) and the garden warbler in dialogue with the Natal robin on pitched percussion. [5]

The final completed movement, titled Rondeau, is the longest and most complex. An energetic refrain is followed by a verse which features a wide range of birds including the bellbird, the golden oriole, the capercaillie and the black-throated diver amongst many others. That refrain-verse sequence is presented twice. [2] After that comes a free meter section, then a chorus of bells before the refrain is stated one last time. [2] The piece ends on an A Major chord, a key that Messiaen associated with joy. [5]

Premiere

Concert à Quatre was premiered by the dedicatees with the orchestra of the Opéra Bastille in Paris on 26 September 1994. The same forces recorded the work for CD the following day. [6]

Related Research Articles

Concerto musical composition usually in three parts

A concerto is, from the late Baroque era, mostly understood as an instrumental composition, written for one or more soloists accompanied by an orchestra. The typical three-movement structure, a slow movement preceded and followed by fast movements, became a standard from the early 18th century.

Olivier Messiaen French composer, organist and ornithologist

Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex; harmonically and melodically he employs a system he called modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from the systems of material generated by his early compositions and improvisations. He wrote music for chamber ensembles and orchestra, vocal music, as well as for solo organ and piano, and also experimented with the use of novel electronic instruments developed in Europe during his lifetime.

Yvonne Loriod French musician

Yvonne Loriod was a French pianist, teacher, and composer, and the second wife of composer Olivier Messiaen. Her sister was the Ondes Martenot player Jeanne Loriod.

<i>Turangalîla-Symphonie</i> musical work by Olivier Messiaen

The Turangalîla-Symphonie is a large-scale piece of orchestral music by Olivier Messiaen (1908–92). It was written from 1946 to 1948 on a commission by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Edison Denisov Soviet and Russian composer

Edison Vasilievich Denisov was a Russian composer in the so-called "Underground", "alternative" or "nonconformist" division of Soviet music.

Heinz Holliger Swiss oboist, composer and conductor

Heinz Robert Holliger is a Swiss oboist, composer and conductor.

Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Sz. 95, BB 101 (1930–31), the second of his three piano concerti, is notorious for being one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire.

Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà … is an orchestral work by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1988–91, his last completed composition. Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary in 1992, Éclairs was first performed by that orchestra at Lincoln Center with Zubin Mehta conducting on 5 November of the anniversary year, just over six months after the composer's death.

<i>Des Canyons aux étoiles...</i> twelve-movement orchestral work by Olivier Messiaen

Des canyons aux étoiles... is a large twelve-movement orchestral work by the French composer Olivier Messiaen. American Alice Tully commissioned the piece in 1971 to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States Declaration of Independence. In 1972, while preparing the work, Messiaen visited Utah, where he was inspired by the birds and the landscape, particularly at colourful Bryce Canyon. It received its premiere in 1974. Performances of the work can have a duration in the range of 90 to 100 minutes.

Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine is a piece by Olivier Messiaen for women's voices, piano solo, ondes Martenot, and orchestra, in three movements. The libretto for the piece was written by Messiaen himself.

A double concerto is a concerto featuring two performers—as opposed to the usual single performer, in the solo role. The two performers' instruments may be of the same type, as in Bach's Double Violin Concerto, or different, as in Brahms's Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra.

<i>Quatre Études de rythme</i> set of piano pieces by Olivier Messiaen

Quatre Études de rythme is a set of four piano compositions by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1949 and 1950. A performance of them lasts between 15 and 20 minutes.

Catalogue d'oiseaux is a work for piano solo by Olivier Messiaen composed of thirteen pieces, written between October 1956 and September 1958. It is devoted to birds and dedicated to his second wife Yvonne Loriod.

Guy Morançon French composer

Guy Morançon is a French composer and organist.

Michel Merlet is a French composer and pedagogue.

<i>Poèmes pour Mi</i> song cycle by Olivier Messiaen

Poèmes pour Mi is a song cycle for dramatic soprano and piano or orchestra by Olivier Messiaen, composed in 1936 and 1937 and dedicated to his first wife, Claire Delbos. The text are poems by the composer based on the New Testament.

Sept haïkaï, subtitled Japanese Sketches is a composition for piano and small orchestra by Olivier Messiaen

Oiseaux exotiques is a piece for piano and small orchestra by Olivier Messiaen. It was written between 5 October 1955 and 3 January 1956 and was commissioned by Pierre Boulez. It is dedicated to Yvonne Loriod, the composer's wife.

The Swiss Chamber Soloists is the concert cycle’s chamber ensemble, founded in 1999 and led by the three artistic directors of the Swiss Chamber Concerts Jürg Dähler, Daniel Haefliger and Felix Renggli.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Dingle, Christopher (2013). Messiaen's Final Works. Ashgate Publishing Limited. pp. 294–308. ISBN   9780754606338.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Halbreich, Harry (1995), Concert à quatre (Deutsche Grammophon), French liner notes.
  3. Concert à Quatre. Editions Alphonse Leduc. 2003.
  4. List of works by Olivier Messiaen, http://www11.ocn.ne.jp/~messiaen/work_list.html Archived 2011-08-04 at the Wayback Machine .
  5. 1 2 3 4 Griffiths, Paul (1995), Concert à quatre (Deutsche Grammophon), English liner notes.
  6. Gramophone magazine, January 1995.