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Messiaen’s Contemplations of Covenant and Incarnation

Musical Symbols of Faith in the Two Great Piano Cycles of the 1940s

Siglind Bruhn
2007

296 pp.

1 illustrations

ISBN: 978-1576471296

hardback $36.00


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"The celebrated composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) characterized himself as a "rhythmician ornithologist and theologian." All interpreters concur that his life and work are grounded in a profound faith. This book examines the translation of his faith into his musical language. It centers on a hermeutic analysis of two spiritually motiviated instrumental compositions Visions de l’amen for two pianos (1943) and Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus for piano solo (1944). Part I introduces the main aspects of the composer’s religious environment (the catholic literary revival his father Pierre and his mentor Charles Tournemire) as well as the components of his idiosyncratic musico-symbolic vocabulary. Parts II and III examine the twenty-seven movements comprised in the Visions and the Regards whose thematic material structure and musical as well as spiritual function within the whole cycle are interpreted in light of the literary source and imagery that inspired Messiaen.

Siglind Bruhn:

A musicologist, concert pianist, and interdisciplinary scholar whose research focuses on compositions of the 20th century. Prior to coming to the United States, she taught for ten years in Germany and at the University of Hong Kong. Since 1993 she has been a full-time researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities (one of six “Life Research Associates”); in the fall of 2004, she was appointed chercheur permanent at the Institut d’Esthétique des Arts Contemporains at Université de Paris 1–La Sorbonne. She has been an elected member of the European Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2001.