Messiaen

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Overview


The French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–92) is a musician about whom most remains to be discovered. More than a decade after his death our knowledge of Messiaen is largely conditioned by what he said about himself in lectures and interviews, in his work as a teacher, and in the monumental seven-volume treatise that encompassed the whole of his composing world. But Messiaen’s public documents conceal as much as they reveal, seldom explaining why a work was written or what complexities went into its making. The...
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Overview


The French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–92) is a musician about whom most remains to be discovered. More than a decade after his death our knowledge of Messiaen is largely conditioned by what he said about himself in lectures and interviews, in his work as a teacher, and in the monumental seven-volume treatise that encompassed the whole of his composing world. But Messiaen’s public documents conceal as much as they reveal, seldom explaining why a work was written or what complexities went into its making. The composer was similarly reticent about his private life.

This is the first book to explore the world that Messiaen was at pains to keep hidden. Based upon unprecedented access to Messiaen’s private archive granted to the authors by the composer’s widow, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone trace the origins of many of Messiaen’s greatest works and place them in the context of his life, from his years at the Paris Conservatoire and his passionate first marriage to Claire Delbos through the immense achievements of his final decades.

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Editorial Reviews

The Boston Globe - David Weininger

"Far and away the best source of information, at least in English, about the composer's life and work."—David Weininger, The Boston Globe
Library Journal
Olivier Messiaen (1908-92), one of the most important composers of the 20th century, receives a fine biographical treatment by former student Hill and writer Simeone, both professors at the University of Sheffield, U.K. Numerous treatments of the French composer have appeared over the years, though many deal only with certain aspects of his work (there are currently two individual treatments of his Quatuor pour la fin du temps in print) and are drawn from either interviews with Messiaen or his writing (e.g., The Technique of My Musical Language). Hill and Simeone's book, on the other hand, benefits from access to Messiaen's recently sorted unpublished papers and includes numerous photographs never before seen. This excellent biography, which also incorporates musical criticism, covers Messiaen's childhood; his years as a student, an organist, a budding major composer, and a German prisoner of war (at the camp where his famous Quatuor pour la fin du temps premiered); and his later accomplishments. The various controversies and critical vagaries (much contemporary criticism is quoted) are explored in detail, as are Messiaen's two marriages and his profound Catholic faith. Recommended for all libraries.-Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300109078
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/11/2005
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter Hill is professor of music at the University of Sheffield. A former student of Messiaen, he is editor of The Messiaen Companion. Nigel Simeone is professor of historical musicology at the University of Sheffield and author of Paris: A Musical Gazetteer, published by Yale University Press.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2008

    The best book about Messiaen's life yet written.

    Simeone and Hill's biography of Messiaen provides and interesting and enlightening view of Messiaen's life and music, and in particular brings to life the world (specifically the Parisian world) in which he lived and composed. I used this as a text for a class about Messiaen, and go back to it frequntly as I continue to listen to his music. The only drawback to this book is that it contains a relatively small amount of actual musical analysis, though the positive side of this is that those who don't have a background in music theory can still gain such a deep insight into his life.

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