Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

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Resurrection des morts. Stained glass, around 1200, in the Sainte-Chapelle Resurrection dead MNMA DS 1893.jpg
Résurrection des morts. Stained glass, around 1200, in the Sainte-Chapelle

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (And I await the resurrection of the dead) is a work for wind orchestra by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1964 and first performed the following year. It is composed in five movements.

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.



Messiaen was approached in October 1963 by André Malraux, Minister of Cultural Affairs under Charles de Gaulle, with a commission for a sacred work to commemorate the dead of the two World Wars. Originally envisioned as a work for chorus, large orchestra and brass, to be performed in June 1964 at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and at Notre-Dame de Chartres, the concept of the work and projected date of performance changed several times over the following year. Composition began in early July 1964, while Messiaen was vacationing at the Lac de Pétichet in the Hautes-Alpes, and the orchestration was completed early in January 1965 ( Hill and Simeone 2005 , 257–60).

André Malraux French novelist, art theorist and politician

Georges André Malraux DSO was a French novelist, art theorist and Minister of Cultural Affairs. Malraux's novel La Condition Humaine (1933) won the Prix Goncourt. He was appointed by President Charles de Gaulle as Minister of Information (1945–46) and subsequently as France's first Minister of Cultural Affairs during de Gaulle's presidency (1959–69).

Charles de Gaulle 18th President of the French Republic

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 in order to establish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement when appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President René Coty. He was asked to rewrite the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected President of France later that year, a position he was reelected to in 1965 and held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the Cold War era, and his memory continues to influence French politics.

Sainte-Chapelle chapel located in Paris, in France

The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel in the Gothic style, within the medieval Palais de la Cité, the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century, on the Île de la Cité in the River Seine in Paris, France.

It was premiered in the Sainte-Chapelle at 11:00 in the morning on 7 May 1965 ( Cheong 2004 , 115), and was performed for the second time in the morning of 20 June of the same year following a Solemn Mass at Chartres Cathedral and in the presence of President Charles de Gaulle, who warmly congratulated the composer after the performance ( Hill and Simeone 2005 , 263). Both performances were conducted by Serge Baudo, and the general rehearsal in Chartres on 19 June was filmed for television, later broadcast in the series Les grandes répétitions( Simeone 2010 , 195).

Serge Baudo is a French conductor, the son of the oboist Étienne Baudo. He is the nephew of the cellist Paul Tortelier.

The piece was destined to be performed in large spaces like churches, cathedrals and the open air. Messiaen was inspired by the countryside which surrounded him as he worked on the composition – the Hautes-Alpes with their great mountains – but also the imposing images of Gothic and Romanesque churches, and the ancient monuments of Mexico and Ancient Egypt.[ citation needed ] In his prefaces to the second and third movements, Messiaen also paraphrases passages from "The Resurrection," from the supplement to the third part of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas ( Bruhn 2008 , 20–21).

<i>Summa Theologica</i> theological treatise by Thomas Aquinas

The Summa Theologiae is the best-known work of Thomas Aquinas. Although unfinished, the Summa is "one of the classics of the history of philosophy and one of the most influential works of Western literature." It is intended as an instructional guide for theology students, including seminarians and the literate laity. It is a compendium of all of the main theological teachings of the Catholic Church. It presents the reasoning for almost all points of Christian theology in the West. The Summa's topics follow a cycle: God; Creation, Man; Man's purpose; Christ; the Sacraments; and back to God.

Thomas Aquinas Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy.


The piece is scored for woodwind, brass and percussion sections. The string section of a symphony orchestra is omitted entirely.


Piccolo small musical instrument of the flute family

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

Flute musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Oboe musical instrument of the woodwind family

Oboes belong to the classification of double reed woodwind instruments. Oboes are usually made of wood, but there are also oboes made of synthetic materials. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When the word oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore


French horn type of brass instrument

The French horn is a brass instrument made of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. The double horn in F/B is the horn most often used by players in professional orchestras and bands. A musician who plays a French horn is known as a horn player or hornist.

Piccolo trumpet smallest member of the trumpet family of brass musical instruments

The smallest of the trumpet family is the piccolo trumpet, pitched one octave higher than the standard B trumpet. Most piccolo trumpets are built to play in either B or A, using a separate leadpipe for each key. The tubing in the B piccolo trumpet is one-half the length of that in a standard B trumpet. Piccolo trumpets in G, F, and even high C are also manufactured, but are rarer.

Trumpet musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family

A trumpet is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC; they began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music. They are played by blowing air through nearly-closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded rectangular shape.



The piece has five movements, lasting approximately 35 minutes in total:

  1. "Des profondeurs de l'abîme, je crie vers toi, Seigneur: Seigneur, écoute ma voix!"
  2. "Le Christ, ressuscité des morts, ne meurt plus; la mort n'a plus sur lui d'empire."
  3. "L'heure vient où les morts entendront la voix du Fils de Dieu..."
  4. "Ils ressusciteront, glorieux, avec un nom nouveau -- dans le concert joyeux des étoiles et les acclamations des fils du ciel."
  5. "Et j'entendis la voix d'une foule immense..."

Discography (selected)

Yvonne Loriod, piano (in Couleurs de la cité céleste); Groupe instrumental à percussion de Strasbourg, Orchestre du Domaine Musical, conductor: Pierre Boulez. Erato 2292-45505-2/III ECD 71587, 1966-71. Originally issued on LP, 1967.

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Further reading