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Quartet for the End of Time

posted Feb 1, 2016, 8:59 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Feb 1, 2016, 8:59 AM ]
The well-known Roman Catholic organist, Olivier Messiaen, was born in 1908 in Avignon. He was drafted into the French army at the outbreak of World War II. In 1940 he was captured by the German army and imprisoned in camp Stalag VIII-A. There he met a professional violinist, cellist and clarinetist among his fellow prisoners, so after managing to obtain paper and a small pencil from a sympathetic guard, he composed a short trio for them. Then adding himself at the piano, he developed it into his Quatuor pour la fin du temps, or Quartet for the End of Time.

The "end of time" alludes to the Apocalypse; he wrote in the score’s Preface he was inspired by Rev 10:1–2, 5–7.

Played on decrepit instruments, the Quartet premiered at the camp 75 years ago on January 15th, 1941 for an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards sitting outdoors and in freezing rain. Yet he later recalled: "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension."

Concerts on the Slope, a monthly chamber music series at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Park Slope, present’s this 50-minute work next Sunday, February 7th at 2:00 pm. They’ve moved their usual Sunday time an hour earlier so you won’t have to choose between Super Bowl 50 and one of 20th-century European classical music's masterpieces.