List of compositions by Olivier Messiaen

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Messiaen (1937) Messiaen 1937 4.jpg
Messiaen (1937)

This is a list of compositions by Olivier Messiaen . Works are listed initially by genre and can be sorted chronologically by clicking on the "Date" header.


Messiaen's compositions include works for chamber ensemble, orchestra, vocal music, music for piano and organ, as well as some of the earliest electronic music, with his use of the ondes martenot in several of his compositions. Messiaen's work is characterised by rhythmic complexity, his interest in ornithology and birdcalls, and his system of modes of limited transposition.

List of compositions

TitleScoringDateNotes [1]


Saint-François d'Assise
("Saint Francis of Assisi")
opera in 3 acts
soprano, 3 tenors, 4 baritones, and bass soloists, chorus, and orchestra1975–83libretto by Messiaen


Fugue en ré mineur

("Fugue in D minor")

La Banquet eucharistique
("The Eucharistic Banquet")
orchestra1928premiere Jan. 1930;


portions recomposed for organ as Le banquet céleste in 1928 and Offrande au Saint-Sacrement in 1929

Jésus – Poème symphonique

("Jesus symphonic poem")

Simple chant d'une âme
("Simple Song of a Soul")
Les Offrandes oubliées  [ fr ] – Méditation symphonique
("The Forgotten Offerings – Symphonic Meditation")
orchestra1930premiere 1931

arr. for piano solo in 1931

Le Tombeau resplendissant
("The Resplendent Tomb")
orchestra1931published 1997
Hymne au Saint-Sacrement  [ fr ]
("Hymn to the Holy Sacrament")
orchestra1932lost in 1942, Messiaen reconstructed it from memory in 1946, [2] published as Hymn
L'Ascension – 4 Méditations symphoniques
("The Ascension – 4 Symphonic Meditations")
orchestra1932–33mvts 1, 2, and 4 arr. for organ with a new 3rd mvt in 1933–34
orchestra1959–60premiere 1960
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum
("And I Await the Resurrection of the Dead")
34 winds & brass, 3 percussion1964premiere 1965
Un Sourire
("A Smile")
orchestra1989premiere 1990
Éclairs sur l'au-delà…
("Lightning over the Beyond…")
orchestra1987–91flute solo in 7th mvt from Sigle;

premiered by the New York Philharmonic in November 1992

Un oiseau des arbres de vie (Oiseau tui)
("A Bird of the Trees of Life (Tui Bird)")
orchestra1987–91discarded 3rd mvt from Éclairs sur l'au-delà (in between the existing 2nd & 3rd mvts);

ms in piano sketch with orchestration annotations discovered among Messiaen's papers;

orchestrated by Christopher Dingle and first performed at The Proms in August 2015 [3]


Trois Tâla
("Three Tâla")
piano and orchestra1946–48used in Turangalîla-Symphonie (movements 3-5)

("Turangalîla Symphony")

piano and ondes Martenot soloists, and orchestra1946–48revised 1990 (published 1994);

premiere 1949

Réveil des oiseaux  [ fr ]
("Awakening Birds")
solo piano and orchestra1953revised 1988 (published 1999);

premiere 1953

Oiseaux exotiques
("Exotic Birds")
solo piano, and 11 winds, 7 percussion1955–56revised 1985 (published 1995);

premiere 1956

Concert des garrigues – sur les oiseaux de l'Hérault
("Garrigues Concerto – on the birds of Hérault")
piano and orchestra1958–62written as an homage to Debussy;

ms in piano score, complete but without orchestration, ms discarded and music rewritten as Sept haïkaï after the composer's visit to Japan;

ms reconstructed and edited as a solo piano piece as Fauvettes de l'Hérault – Concert des garrigues

("Warblers of Herault – Garrigues Concerto") by Roger Muraro, and first performed by him in Tokyo June 2017 [4]

Sept haïkaï – Esquisses japonaisses
("Seven Haikus – Japanese Sketches")
solo piano, and 8 violins, 13 winds, 6 percussion1962
Couleurs de la Cité céleste  [ fr ]
("Colours of the Celestial City")
solo piano, and 3 clarinets, 10 brass, 6 percussion1963
Des Canyons aux étoiles…
("From the Canyons to the Stars…")
piano, horn, glockenspiel, and xylorimba soloists, and small orchestra with 13 string players1971–746th mvt is horn piece Le tombeau de Jean-Pierre Guezec
Un vitrail et des oiseaux  [ fr ]
("A Stained-Glass Window and Birds")
piano solo, and 17 winds & brass, 8 percussion1987
La Ville d'En-haut
("The City on High")
piano solo, and 31 winds & brass, 8 percussion1987
Concert à quatre
("Quadruple Concerto")
piano, cello, flute, and oboe soloists, and orchestra1991–922nd mvt is arr. of soprano & piano piece Vocalise-Étude;

5th mvt (a fugue) never written and portions of orchestration not completed due to the composer's declining health;

2nd half of 1st mvt and all of 4th mvt orchestrated by Yvonne Loriod, George Benjamin, and Heinz Holliger, premiered in 1994, published in 2003


La Sainte-Bohème
("The Holy Bohemian")
Text: Théodore de Banville from Odes funambulesques
mixed chorus and orchestra1930composed for the Prix de Rome;


("The Sorceress")
soprano, tenor, bass, and piano or orchestra1931premiere 1931;


La jeunesse des vieux
("The Youth of Old")
Poem: Catulle Mendés
chorus and orchestra1931composed for the Prix de Rome;




8 sopranos, and 4 violins1933–34lost
Poèmes pour Mi
("Poems for Mi")
soprano and orchestra1937arr. of soprano and piano work
O sacrum convivium!
("Oh Sacred Banquet!")
SATB chorus and organ1937organ accomp. optional
Choeurs pour une Jeanne d'Arc
("Chorales for Joan of Arc")
  1. Te Deum
  2. Impropères
chorus1941premiere 1941;


Trois petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine
("Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence")
36 women's voices, piano solo, ondes Martenot solo, and strings, percussion1943–44revised 1952, 1990
Chant des déportés
("Song of the Deportees")
large ST chorus and orchestra1945believed lost until discovered in 1991 [5]
Cinq rechants  [ fr ]

("Five Re-chants")

3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, 3 basses1948
La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ
("The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ")
large 100-voice 10-part chorus, piano, cello, flute, clarinet, xylophone, vibraphone, and marimba soloists, and large orchestra1965–69premiere 1969


Deux ballades de Villon
("Two Ballads of Villon")
  1. Épître à ses amis
  2. Ballade des pendus
voice and piano1921unpublished
Trois mélodies

("Three Melodies")

  1. Pourquoi ?
  2. Le Sourire
  3. La Fiancée perdue
soprano and piano1930
Échapper à l'accord de Rome

("Escaping the Roman Accord")

voice and piano1930composed for the Prix de Rome;


La Mort du nombre
("Death of the Number")
soprano, tenor, violin, and piano1930
Échapper à l'accord de Rome

("Escaping the Roman Accord")

voice and piano1931composed for the Prix de Rome;


Leçons de solfège à chanter
("Solfege Singing Lessons")
5 wordless pieces
high voice and piano1934published 2001

("Vocalisation Study")

soprano and piano1935orchestrated as 2nd mvt of Concert à quatre in 1991
Poèmes pour Mi
("Poems for Mi")
soprano and piano1936orchestrated in 1937
Chants de Terre et de Ciel
("Songs of Earth and Heaven")
soprano and piano1938
Harawi : Chants d'amour et de mort
("Harawi: Songs of Love and Death")
soprano and piano19455th mvt is arr. of oboe and piano Pièce


Adagioorgan, violin, cello1927lost
Andantinostring quartet1926–27lost
Thème et variations
("Theme and Variations")
violin and piano1932


violin and piano1933premiere 1935;

discovered and published 2007 [6]

Quatuor pour la fin du temps
("Quartet for the End of Time")
violin, cello, clarinet, and piano19405th mvt is arr. of 4th mvt of Fête des belles eaux, 8th mvt is arr. of 2nd mvt of Diptyque
Hymne des passereaux au lever du jour
("Hymn of the sparrows at sunrise")
clarinet solo1944published as the 119th musical example of his book Technique of my Musical Language


oboe and piano1945written as a test piece for the oboe concours at the Paris Conservatoire, premiere 1945?;


arr. for soprano and piano as 5th mvt of Harawi

Le Merle noir
("The Blackbird")
flute and piano1952
Le tombeau de Jean-Pierre Guézec
("The Tomb of Jean-Pierre Guézec")
horn solo1971premiere 1971;


arr. for orchestra as 6th mvt of Des Canyons aux étoiles

flute solo1982premiere 1982;


later used in the 7th mvt of Éclairs sur l'au-delà

Chant dans le style Mozart
("Song in the Style of Mozart")
clarinet and piano1986written for the Conservatoire harmony examination, premiere 1986;

unpublished, but recorded by Yvonne Loriod in 1999

Pièce pour piano et quatuor à cordes
("Piece for Piano and String Quartet")
piano quintet1991last work published during his lifetime
Feuillets inédits
("Unpublished Leaves")
4 pieces
piano and ondes Martenotvarious unknown datescompiled by Yvonne Loriod, published in 2001 [8]


Les seins coupés de Ste. Agathe
("The Severed Breasts of Saint Agatha")
Esquisse modale
("Modal Sketch")
Pièce pour orgue sur un thème de Laparra
("Piece for Organ on a Theme of Laparra")


organunknown, probably around 1928discovered 1997, published 2002
Variations écossaises
("Scottish Variations")
Le Banquet Céleste
("The Heavenly Banquet")
organ1928a recomposition of a section from the unpublished orchestra work Le banquet eucharistique; [9]

revised 1960

L'hôte aimable des âmes
("The Kind Host of Souls")
Offrande au Saint-Sacrement
("Offering to the Holy Sacrament")
organ1929a recomposition of a section from the unpublished orchestral piece Le banquet eucharistique;

published 2001

Prélude en trio sur un thème de Haydn
("Prelude and Trio on a Theme of Haydn")
Diptyque: Essai sur la vie terrestre et l'éternité bienheureuse
("Diptych: Essay on earthly life and blessed eternity")
organ1929–302nd section arr. as 8th mvt of Quatuor pour la fin du temps in 1940
Apparition de l'église éternelle
("Apparition of the Eternal Church")
organ1932revised 1985 (registrations added)
("The Ascension")
  1. Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père ("Christ's majesty, asking His Father for His glory")
  2. Alleluias sereins d’une âme qui désire le ciel ("Serene alleluias of a soul who longs for heaven")
  3. Transports de joie d'une âme devant la gloire du Christ qui est la sienne ("Outbursts of Joy of a soul before Christ's Majesty, which is in itself Glorious")
  4. Prière du Christ montant vers son Père ("Christ's Prayer as He ascends towards His Father")
organ1933–34mvts 1, 2, and 4 arr. from the orchestra work, 3rd mvt is new
La Nativité du Seigneur
("The Lord's Nativity")
  1. La vierge et l'enfant ("The Virgin and Child")
  2. Les Bergers ("The Shepherds")
  3. Desseins éternels ("Eternal Designs")
  4. Le verbe ("The Word")
  5. Les enfants de Dieu ("The Children of God")
  6. Les anges ("The Angels")
  7. Jésus accepte la souffrance ("Jesus accepts suffering")
  8. Les mages ("The Magi")
  9. Dieu parmi nous ("The Lord Amidst Us")
Les Corps glorieux
("The Glorious Bodies")
  1. Subtilité des corps glorieux ("Subtlety of the Glorious Bodies")
  2. Les eaux de la grâce ("The Fountains of Grace")
  3. L'ange aux parfums ("The Angel of Perfumes")
  4. Combat de mort et de la vie ("Battle of Life and Death")
  5. Force et agilité des corps glorieux ("Strength and Agility of the Glorious Bodies")
  6. Joie et clarté des Corps Glorieux ("Joy and Clarity of the Glorious Bodies")
  7. Le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité ("The Mystery of the Holy Trinity")
Tristan et Yseult – Théme d'Amour
("Tristan and Isolde – Love Theme")
organ1945written for a play, premiere 1945;

used as the thème d'amour in Harawi and Turangalîla (transposed)

Messe de la Pentecôte
("Pentecost Mass")
  1. Entrée (Les langues de feu) - Entrance
  2. Offertoire (Les choses visibles et invisibles) - Offertory
  3. Consécration (Le don de Sagesse) - Consecration
  4. Communion (Les oiseaux et les sources) - Communion
  5. Sortie (Le vent de l'Esprit) - Recessional
Livre d'orgue
("Organ Book")
organ1951–52 [7]
Verset pour la fête de la Dédicace
("Verse for the Dedication Ceremony")


organ1963premiere 1998
Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité
("Meditations on the Mystery of the Holy Trinity")
Le Livre du Saint-Sacrement
("Book of the Holy Sacrament")


La Dame de Shalott
("The Lady of Shalott")
piano1917unpublished, but recorded by Yvonne Loriod
La tristesse d'un grand ciel blanc
("The Sadness of a Great White Sky")
Huit Préludes
("Eight Preludes")
piano1928–29revised 1945
Les Offrandes oubliées  [ fr ]
("The Forgotten Offerings")
piano1931arr. of orchestra work
Fantaisie burlesque

("Burlesque Fantasia")

Morceau (au première piste) de lecture à vue
("Piece (on the First Course) for Sight-Reading")
piano1934exercise written for piano examinations at the École Normale de Musique
Pièce pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas
("Piece for the Tomb of Paul Dukas")
piano1935published in 1936 as a musical supplement to La Revue musicale, republished 1996
Visions de l'Amen
("Visions of the Amen")
2 pianos1943
Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus
("Twenty Contemplations of the Christ-Child")
Cantéyodjayâ piano1948
Quatre Études de rythme
("Four Rhythmic Etudes")
  1. Île de feu 1
  2. Mode de valeurs et d'intensités
  3. Neumes rhythmiques
  4. Île de feu 2
piano1949–50intended as a set but each piece initially published separately, published as a set in 2008
Catalogue d'oiseaux
("Catalogue of the Birds")

Book 1:

  1. Le Chocard des alpes
    ("Alpine Chough")
  2. Le Loriot
    ("Golden Oriole")
  3. Le Merle bleu
    ("Blue Rock Thrush")

Book 2:

  1. Le Traquet stapazin
    ("Black-Eared Wheatear")

Book 3:

  1. La Chouette hulotte
    ("Tawny Owl")
  2. L'Alouette lulu

Book 4:

  1. La Rousserolle effarvatte
    ("Reed Warbler")

Book 5:

  1. L'Alouette calandrelle
    ("Greater Short-Toed Lark")
  2. La Bouscarle
    ("Cetti's Warbler")

Book 6:

  1. Le merle de roche
    ("Rock Thrush")

Book 7:

  1. La Buse variable
  2. Le Traquet rieur
    ("Black Wheatear")
  3. Le Courlis cendré
piano1956–582. loriot and Loriod are homophones
La Fauvette passerinette
("Subalpine Warbler")
piano1961a birdsong piece possibly intended for Book 8 (perhaps for a larger sequel) of Catalogue d'oiseaux;

discovered in 2012 by Peter Hill, edited for performance by Hill, and premiered by him in November 2013 [11]



piano1964published 2002
La Fauvette des jardins
("Garden Warbler")
Petites esquisses d'oiseaux
("Little Sketches of Birds")


Fête des belles eaux
("Festival of the Beautiful Waters")
6 ondes Martenots19374th mvt arr. as 5th mvt of Quatuor pour la fin du temps;

published 2003

Deux monodies en quarts de ton
("Two Monodies in Quarter-Tones")
ondes Martenot1938believed lost until discovered recently;

so far unpublished, but played in concert

Musique de scène pour un Œdipe
("Stage Music for Oedipus")
ondes Martenot1942premiere 1942;



musique concrète

tape1952realised by Pierre Henry in the radiophonic workshop of French radio, an experiment which Messiaen later deemed a failure; [12]

premiere 1952;

published in fragments but withdrawn, recording released 2004

Unspecified instruments

Fugue sur un sujet d’Henri Rabaud
("Fugue on a subject of Henri Rabaud")
4 parts in SATB clefs1926conservatoire assignment;

published along with two other fugues that won the first prize that year

Fugue pour le Concours de Rome (sur un sujet de Georges Hüe)
("Fugue for the Prix de Rome Contest (on a subject of Georges Hüe)")
4 parts in SATB clefs1930unpublished
Fugue pour le Concours de Rome
("Fugue for the Prix de Rome Contest")
4 parts in SATB clefs1931unpublished
Vingt Leçons en harmonie (dans le style de certains compositeurs importants de l'histoire musicale de l'harmonie de Monteverdi à Ravel)
("Twenty Lessons in Harmony (in the style of some important composers in the musical history of harmony from Monteverdi to Ravel)")
various or unspecified instruments1939written for a course Messiaen taught at the Opéra à Paris, the lessons analyze the harmonization of continuo and melody in the style of different composers (Monteverdi, Rameau, Bach, Gluck, Mozart, Schumann, Franck, Lalo, Chabrier, Massenet, Fauré, Albéniz, Debussy, Ravel, and Traditional Indian songs)
Chant donné (Leçon d'harmonie : Hommage à Jean Gallon)
("Song Assignment (Lesson in Harmony: Tribute to Jean Gallon)")
4 parts in SATB clefs1953written as part of a tribute (with 63 of his colleagues in other chants donnés) to the memory of Jean Gallon



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Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist who was 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.

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Le Merle noir is a chamber work by the French composer Olivier Messiaen for flute and piano. It was written and first performed in 1952 and is the composer's shortest independently published work, lasting just over five minutes. It has neither time signature nor key signature. This work has become a staple of the French flute and piano repertoire.The composition originated in a commission for a test piece for flute for the Paris Conservatoire, at which Messiaen was a professor. The winners of the premier prix in the Concours de flûte that year were Daniel Morlier, Jean Pierre Eustache, Jean Ornetti, Régis Calle and the British flute player Alexander Murray. Messiaen had a consuming, lifelong interest in ornithology and particularly bird songs. While not his first work to incorporate stylised birdsong, Le Merle noir was the earliest of his pieces to be based mainly on birdsong, and it foreshadows Messiaen's later, more extended birdsong-inspired pieces.

Feuillets inédits is a piece of music by Olivier Messiaen for piano and ondes Martenot. It is not known when the work was composed but it was put together by the composer's second wife Yvonne Loriod and published in 2001. The manuscript of the fourth part of the work was entitled "Déchiffrage" (deciphering).

<i>Des Canyons aux étoiles...</i>

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 1944 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.

Ginette Martenot (1902–1996) was a French pianist, and an expert and leading performer on the twentieth-century electronic instrument the ondes Martenot, which was invented by her brother Maurice. At the age of sixteen, she entered the Paris Conservatory, where she studied counterpoint and fugue with the composer Arthur Honegger. She gave the first performance as solo ondist in Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie, with Yvonne Loriod taking the solo piano part.

Ondes Martenot Early electronic musical instrument

The ondes Martenot or ondes musicales is an early electronic musical instrument. It is played with a keyboard or by moving a ring along a wire, creating "wavering" sounds similar to a theremin. A player of the ondes martenot is called an ondist.

<i>Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum</i>

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum is a work for wind orchestra by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1964 and first performed the following year. It is composed in five movements.

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.

Fête des belles eaux is a 1937 composition by French composer Olivier Messiaen. The work is scored for six ondes Martenots and was commissioned for the 1937 Paris Exhibition. The work was written to accompany the movement of the fountains at the Exhibition.

Visions de l'Amen is a suite of seven pieces for two pianos by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992), commissioned for the Concerts de la Pléiade that were held during the German occupation of Paris. It was composed in 1943 for the composer and Yvonne Loriod, and its performance requires about 40–45 minutes.

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

<i>O sacrum convivium!</i> Choral composition by Olivier Messiaen

O sacrum convivium! is a short offertory motet for four-part mixed chorus by French composer Olivier Messiaen, setting "O sacrum convivium". It was composed and published in 1937.


  1. some information comes from the New Grove article on Messiaen. Griffiths, Paul. "Messiaen, Olivier". Grove Music Online. oxfordmusiconline. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  2. Hill & Simeone (2005), p. 120
  3. "Messiaen: Un oiseau des arbres de Vie (Oiseau tui)". BBC. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  4. "DEBUSSY Études MESSIAEN Fauvettes de l'Hérault (Roger Muraro)". Gramophone. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  5. Hill & Simeone (2005), p. 162
  6. see this note on errors in the score
  7. 1 2 Hill & Simeone (2005), p. 199, outlines the chronology of Messiaen's compositions of 1951–52 Le merle noir and Livre d'orgue
  8. Messiaen, Olivier; Loriod, Yvonne (2001). Feuillets inédits: quatre pièces pour onde Martenot & piano. Durand.
  9. Hill & Simeone (2005), p. 25
  10. some scholars suggest composition date of 1930–35, others 1928–31 being related to Le Banquet Céleste of 1928, but most likely this is the Conservatoire examination submission Messiaen mentions in Jan. 1929 (see Christopher Brent Murray, Le développement du langage musical d'Olivier Messiaen, pp. 176–7)
  11. "La Fauvette Passerinette – a fascinating Messiaen discovery". Faber Music. Faber & Faber. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  12. Messiaen & Samuel (1994), p. 198