Composer: Olivier Messiaen (b. 1908 - d. 1992)
Performance date: 29/06/2013
Venue: Bantry Library
Composition Year: 1971
Recording Engineer: Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation: 2vn, va, vc
Instrumentation Other: hn
Hervé Joulain -
Messiaen wrote his huge orchestral work
“From the Canyons to the Stars…” as a commission from the legendary American
arts patron, Alice Tully, for the Chamber Music Society of New York. It was to
bicentennial of 1976. He was fascinated
by the great canyons of
which he had visited in 1974 and was immediately enthralled by their wonderful
colours and how their strata revealed many periods in time. The brilliant star-lit nights of the desert
also contributed to the work, a paean to nature and the mysteries of space.
Many topics are considered: various birds, certain canyons, interstellar space
and the concept of the
large score in three parts and twelve movements, lasting some 90 minutes. It was first performed in the Alice Tully
Hall, New York, on November 20th, 1974, by the chamber group Musica
Aeterna. It was written for a large
chamber ensemble but for the sixth movement of Part One – Interstellar Call – he employed just a solo horn. In fact he took
the piece from a memorial he had written in 1971 to a former pupil and later
colleague, the composer Jean-Pierre Guézec [1931-1971].
The movement is one of the shorter in
the work at about six minutes and involves a wide range of difficult effects on
the horn, including trills, wavering pitches and flutter-tonguing. A bravura
hunting call opens the music and a cadenza-like sequence of motifs quickly
follows. This is succeeded by a threnody, presumably to honour Guézec, with
magical echo effects, finally fading away into outer space.
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