THE SONG: Quatuor pour la fin du temps.
WHO: Olivier Messiaen.
WHY IT’S HOT: We’ll defer to Wikipedia to tell the story of this amazing work of art. “At the outbreak of World War II, Messiaen was drafted into the French army. Due to poor eyesight, he was enlisted as a medical auxiliary rather than an active combatant. He was captured at Verdun and taken to Görlitz in May 1940, and was imprisoned at Stalag VIII-A. He met a violinist, a cellist and a clarinettist among his fellow prisoners. He wrote a trio for them, which he gradually incorporated into his Quatuor pour la fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”). With the help of a friendly German guard (Carl-Albert Brüll), he acquired manuscript paper and pencils, and was able to assemble the three other POWs to help him perform the piece. The Quartet was first performed in January 1941 to an audience of prisoners and prison guards, with the composer playing a poorly maintained upright piano in freezing conditions. The enforced introspection and reflection of camp life bore fruit in one of 20th-century classical music’s acknowledged masterpieces. The title’s “end of time” alludes to the Apocalypse, and also to the way that Messiaen, through rhythm and harmony, used time in a manner completely different from his predecessors and contemporaries.”
WANT MORE? Just listen to it again.
WORDS: Marc Landas.