Messiaen and Xenakis - Oiseaux Exotiques
This photo shows Olivier Messiaen pinning the award of Chevalier de la légion d'honneur on Iannis Xenakis in his Paris apartment in 1977. Xenakis was a pupil of Messiaen and I will be playing music by both of them on my Future Radio programme on Sunday April 13 at 5.00pm UK time (repeated 12.50am April 14).
The programme opens with Xenakis' Komboi and closes with another award winner, Angelin Chang, John McLaughlin Williams and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony's Grammy winning recording of Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques. The two works are separated by music from a composer who shared Messiaen's deep Catholic faith. Hildegard of Bingen is the earliest composer with a detailed biography and her music drama Ordo Virtutum is considered to be the prototype of the art form that became opera and eight centuries later came full circle in Messiaen's massively underrated Saint François d'Assise which only had its U.S. premiere in 2002. I will be playing the instrumental lament and Scene 3 from Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum performed by Sequentia directed by Barbara Thornton and Benjamin Bagby on Sunday.
Now here's a little quiz. Which famous musician said this after hearing tapes of Xenakis' Mists and Synaphaï?
'This is the first time I've heard any music by Xenakis; it's completely bowled me over, even though I'm not sure I've really understood it (or not understood it). Intuition? But can one always trust it? ... It seems to me that this, in fact, is what I'd call real 'new' music.'
To finish some quick visual arts trivia. Olivier Messiaen died on April 27, 1992 and the figurative painter Francis Bacon, whose masterpiece is the disturbing Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, died the following day. Staying with the visual arts remember Iannis Xenakis also composed in glass.
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