Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Written in a Nazi prison camp, Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps- "Quartet for the End of Time"- is a set of seven meditations on eternity and religion, ranging from deeply disturbing to exaltant. The piece premiered to fellow prisnoers of war in 1941. Messiaen scored the piece to suit himself and three fellow prisoners, who together played piano, violin, cello, and clarinet. Each instrument gets a time in the spotlight; the third movement belongs to the solo clarinet; the fifth sees the cello in the lead role; the seventh, the piano; the eighth, the violin. The movements range from unsettling atonality to an almost Shostakovichian harmonic language, especially in the fourth and fifth movements.
The Quartet for the End of Time, appropriately, is especially innovative in use of time; notes retain their values (quarter note, eighth notes, etc.) but in some movements the time signature is absent, leading to a lack of a pulse. In other movements, the tempos are so slow that notes seem to be held forever. The End of Time could have a double meaning- the Apocalypse, and the end of conventional musical time signatures.
Messiaen: Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps
Luben Yordanoff; Albert Tetard; Claude Desurmont; Daniel Barenboim