Prelude for Organ (Messiaen)

Last updated
by Olivier Messiaen
Messiaen Harcourt 1937.jpg
Olivier Messiaen in 1937
ComposedUnknown, probably 1929 (1929): Paris
Published2002 (2002): Paris

The Prelude for Organ (French : Prélude pour orgue), sometimes also known as Prélude, is an organ composition by French composer Olivier Messiaen. It was published posthumously in 2002.



This prelude was discovered by Yvonne Loriod in 1997, together with the Offrande au Saint-Sacrement . The date of composition is unknown and its origin is subject to much speculation. On the one hand, organist and Messiaen performer Olivier Latry suggested that Messiaen composed the Prélude when he was an organ student at the Paris Conservatory, as it was one of the few places where he could play an unusually large organ with a keyboard extending to C6 (61 notes) and a pedal board extending to G4 (32 notes). He also explained the work might have been contemporary with his Diptyque , around 1929, since it has a similarly agitated and virtuosistic style. [1] Scholar Christopher Brent Murray, on the other hand, believes that the Prélude may have been composed in January 1928. According to Murray, Messiaen may have referred to the piece as the Conservatory examination submission. [2] It was published by Editions Alphonse Leduc in 2002. [3]


The piece has a duration of 9 minutes and a total of 89 bars. It is in E major and has an unchanging time signature of 7
. According to double bar separation, the piece has three sections: a very short first section which is marked "Sans hâte" (Without haste), a second section marked "Lent" (Slow) starting at bar 4, and a lengthy third section marked "Modéré, presque vif" (Moderate, almost quick) starting at bar 17, which contains the development, the recapitulation, and the coda. These three sections are also divided by fermatas. [3]


Since this piece was not initially intended for publication and was probably discarded as juvenilia, it has not been performed very often and remains one of the lesser known works by Messiaen. Here is a list of notable recordings of the piece:

OrganRecord companyYear of recordingFormat
Olivier Latry Deutsche Grammophon2002CD [4]

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  1. Benitez, Vincent (2007). Olivier Messiaen: A Research and Information Guide. Routledge. ISBN   978-1-135-87130-7 . Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  2. Murray, Christopher (2010). Le développement du langage musical d'Olivier Messiaen — Traditions, emprunts, expériences. Lyon: Université-Lumière Lyon. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  3. 1 2 Messiaen, Olivier (2002). Prélude pour orgue. Paris: Alphonse Leduc & Cie. ISMN  9790046294143. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  4. "MESSIAEN Complete Organ Works Latry". Retrieved 19 August 2020.