Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great French composer Olivier Messiaen (he died in 1992). What stays with me about his music is its brilliant color and the sheer exuberance of it, bordering on ecstasy, and often crossing that border.

One of the great privileges of my life as a musician was to lead a performance of the composer's Oiseaux exotiques (Exotic Birds) with the extraordinary John Salmon as pianist. The short concert (the rest of the program was given over to chamber music of Morton Feldman, who produces his own kind of ecstasy) was held in the sanctuary of the Episcopal Student Center in Tallahassee--the design of which is kind of a Scandanavian Modern, with lots of stone and curved walls. The reverb was intense and Messiaen's birds had plenty of room to take flight.

An article I wrote on Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time"), can be found here.

Alex Ross has details of Messiaen 100 celebrations here and here.

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