Les Corps glorieux

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Les Corps Glorieux is a large organ cycle composed in the summer of 1939 [1] [2] in Saint-Théoffrey (Isère) by Olivier Messiaen. The work was completed on 25 August 1939, a week before the declaration of the Second World War and was premiered by Messiaen himself on 15 April 1945 [1] at the Palais de Chaillot. This work marks an evolution in the musical language of Olivier Messiaen, combining features of both Indian classical music and Gregorian chant. The work, together with L'Ascension (1934) and La Nativité du Seigneur (1935), is one of the three early organ cycles of the composer.

Cycle has several meanings in the field of music. Acoustically, it refers to one complete vibration, the base unit of Hertz being one cycle per second. Theoretically, an interval cycle is a collection of pitch classes created by a sequence of identical intervals. Individual pieces that aggregate into larger works are considered cycles, for example, the movements of a suite, symphony, sonata, or string quartet. This definition can apply to everything from settings of the Mass or a song cycle to an opera cycle. Cycle also applies to the complete performance of an individual composer's work in one genre.

Saint-Théoffrey Commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Saint-Théoffrey is a commune in the Isère department in southeastern France.

Isère Department of France

Isère is a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France named after the river Isère.



Les Corps Glorieux is divided into seven movements:

1. Subtilité des Corps Glorieux

This movement is a single unharmonised melody based on a Gregorian antiphon. Each end of a phrase is repeated as an echo. Cornet registrations alternate between the Grand-Orgue, Positif and Récit manuals. The unchanging monophony of this movement, the simplest and purest musical form, symbolises the "subtilité".

Antiphon call and response, especially in Christian music and ritual

An antiphon is a short chant in Christian ritual, sung as a refrain. The texts of antiphons are the Psalms. Their form was favored by St Ambrose and they feature prominently in Ambrosian chant, but they are used widely in Gregorian chant as well. They may be used during Mass, for the Introit, the Offertory or the Communion. They may also be used in the Liturgy of the Hours, typically for Lauds or Vespers.


In music, monophony is the simplest of musical textures, consisting of a melody, typically sung by a single singer or played by a single instrument player without accompanying harmony or chords. Many folk songs and traditional songs are monophonic. A melody is also considered to be monophonic if a group of singers sings the same melody together at the unison or with the same melody notes duplicated at the octave. If an entire melody is played by two or more instruments or sung by a choir with a fixed interval, such as a perfect fifth, it is also said to be monophony. The musical texture of a song or musical piece is determined by assessing whether varying components are used, such as an accompaniment part or polyphonic melody lines.

The subtitle of this movement, added by the composer, reads translated: "An earthly body is being sown, a spiritual body is raised." (1 Corinthians 15:44) "And they shall be as the angels of God in heaven." (Matthew 22:30)

2. Les eaux de la Grâce

The "Waters of grace" are symbolised here by a 4' ostinato in the pedal, which is simultaneously played in diminution by the left hand, while in the right hand a harmonized melody is heard. The octave doubling of this melody by the 16' register gives an unusual effect. After 29 bars, the movement breaks without a real conclusion - the melody could be carried on to infinity.

In music, an ostinato[ostiˈnaːto] is a motif or phrase that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, frequently in the same pitch. Well-known ostinato-based pieces include both classical compositions such as Ravel's Boléro and the Carol of the Bells, and popular songs such as Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's "I Feel Love" (1977), Henry Mancini's theme from Peter Gunn (1959), The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997), and April Ivy's "Be Ok" (1997).


In Western music and music theory, diminution has four distinct meanings. Diminution may be a form of embellishment in which a long note is divided into a series of shorter, usually melodic, values. Diminution may also be the compositional device where a melody, theme or motif is presented in shorter note-values than were previously used. Diminution is also the term for the proportional shortening of the value of individual note-shapes in mensural notation, either by coloration or by a sign of proportion. A minor or perfect interval that is narrowed by a chromatic semitone is a diminished interval, and the process may be referred to as diminution.

The subtitle of this sentence reads: "The Lamb in the midst of the throne will lead the chosen to the waters of life." (Revelation John 7:17)

3. L'ange aux parfums

The texture in this movement is wide-ranging, from simple monophony to complicated counterpoint . At the beginning of the second part of the movement, a unison melody acts as a cantus firmus . In a following, fast section, the ascent of the incense is symbolised through fast semiquaver runs. These runs abruptly cut short to end the movement.

Counterpoint relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (exhibiting polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour

In music, counterpoint is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour. It has been most commonly identified in the European classical tradition, strongly developing during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period, especially in the Baroque. The term originates from the Latin punctus contra punctum meaning "point against point".

The subtitle of this movement reads: "The fragrance of incense rose up to God with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel." (Revelation 8: 4)

4. Combat de Mort et de la Vie

This is the longest set of the cycle. Death initially embodies an aggressive toccata over a powerful low motif, after which life is represented by a quiet, meditative second half.

The subtitle used by the composer in this movement reads: "Death and life fought a strange struggle. Though dead, the prince of life is victorious and reigns. He saith, My father, I am risen, and I am with thee." (from the Sequence and Introitus of the Easter festival)

5. Force et agilité des Corps Glorieux

In this movement the main motif consists of a brief glissando followed by a staccato quaver chain on a single note,in octaves.

The subtitle of this movement reads: "A weak body is sown, a powerful body is raised" (1 Corinthians 15:43)

6. Joie et clarté des Corps Glorieux

A unison, rhapsodic theme in the upper voice, interrupted by three chords played in the récit, is heard at the beginning of the movement over a receding fifth in the pedal. This is followed by a quieter middle section, in which the cromorne of the Positif and the Hautbois of the Récite correspond. The main and middle sections alternate with each other, followed by the coda, which shows the main part rhythmically slightly changed. The so-called "Freudenmotiv" then breaks off spectacularly and the movement ends with a virtuosic glissando.

The subtitle of this movement reads: "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father." (Matthew 13:43)

7. Le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité

In contrast to Messiaen's " La Nativité du Seigneur " organ cycle, "Les Corps Glorieux" has a calm and meditative ending. The holy Trinity is symbolised by the three-part counterpoint of the movement. Contrasting stop registrations (32 'in the pedal against 16' and 2 'in the Récit) dominate this movement, which may be regarded as a precursor (not in style but in subject) to the organ-cycle Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité .

The subtitle of this movement reads: "Almighty Father. With your only Son and Holy Spirit, you are a God. Not in the uniqueness of a person, but in the Trinity of a Being. "(from the Preface to the Sunday Trinitatis)

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  1. 1 2 Benitez, Vincent. Olivier Messiaen: A Research and Information Guide. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN   0415973724 . Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  2. Landale, Susan. "Olivier Messiaen, Les Corps Glorieux". Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2017.