Messiaen in the Garden Room

Messiaen in the Garden Room
By Janet Kirckconnell

Deemed “the most ethereally beautiful music of the twentieth century” by American music critic Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine, French composer Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” will be heard at 2pm on March 11 as the first Sunday Music in the Garden Room concert for 2018, held in the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre on the Acadia campus.

Written by Messiaen in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, the quartet, for violin, cello, clarinet, and piano, had its premiere on a bitterly cold January night in 1941. That the composition even came into being was something of a miracle. A German prison guard had recognized and was excited by the presence of a famous composer among the prisoners, and supplied Messiaen with music paper, pencils, and erasers, and provided a room and protection for the composer to write.

An inscription in the score from the Book of Revelation states that the quartet is “In homage to the Angel of the Apocalypse who lifts his hand toward heaven, saying ‘There shall be time no longer.’” Seventy-seven years later, this is just as timely.

Performing the quartet are two Acadia School of Music faculty, violinist Gillian Smith, and clarinetist Eileen Walsh, as well as cellist Benjamin Marmen, and pianist Simon Docking, all outstanding musicians. This is a rare opportunity, probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to hear this overpowering music live.

Two other concerts also remain in the 2017-2018 season: soprano Suzie LeBlanc with pianist Simon Docking on April 15, and tenor Marcel D’Entremont with pianist Heather Price on May 6. Admission is free.

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