Download Performing Messiaen's Organ Music: Chapter 1 PDF

TitlePerforming Messiaen's Organ Music: Chapter 1
TagsPop Culture Musical Compositions Harmony Elements Of Music Tempo
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Total Pages23
Document Text Contents
Page 1

P E R F O R M I N G

M e s s i a e n ’ s
O R G A N M U S I C

66 Masterclasses

n

J o n G i l l o c k

Page 2

p e r f o r m i n g

Messiaen’s

organ m us i c

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Jon Gillock came to Paris for several years to attend Olivier Messiaen’s class at
the Conservatoire. Thus, he heard numerous works analyzed: operas, orches-
tral works, organ and piano works—in all styles—

That is how he was imbued for life with Messiaen’s teaching, but also sub-
merged!, immersed by the genius which permeated Messiaen’s personality.
However, for him that was not enough: he traveled, sometimes great distances,
to hear orchestral concerts where works of Messiaen were being played! It was
not rare to see him at a “Turangalîla” in Germany—or at a “Transfiguration de
Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ” in Holland.

Passionately in love with Messiaen’s music, and at the same time discreet, his
ever faithful presence touched Messiaen’s heart! . . .

When Jon Gillock performed Messiaen’s works at St. John the Divine in New
York, his personality, his virtuosity, his registrations, his knowledge of sonor-
ity, and the faithfulness of his interpretation overwhelmed the Composer.

There remains a very strong bond between the Maître and his Disciple, and
the two will be in perfect communion when Jon Gillock accomplishes the feat
of performing Messiaen’s complete works for organ in six concerts.

Love of Beauty is contagious! and the public is going to vibrate with the
Faith and Light that Olivier Messiaen knew how to communicate through his
music.

With thankfulness to Jon Gillock, who also knows how to perform these
works with his heart.

Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen

paris, november 1998

[For program Celebration Messiaen: The Complete Works for Organ, New York City, 1999]

foreword

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figure 1 . Olivier Messiaen and Jon Gillock at the Paris Conservatory, then located on
Rue de Madrid, in Messiaen’s classroom, Salle Gounod, 1977. photo: j. gillock

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Notice also that this theme is in perpetual motion, constantly flowing back and
forth between its high and low curves.

From this point onward it is expanded to coincide with the direction that
theme 1 takes.

It reaches the top of its arch just slightly after theme 1, in measure 17, very
passionately on the high D#. Breathless, it can barely sing past the top and is
forced to stop in mid-arch to take a breath.

In measure 18, after an expressive breath, the downward side of that arch is
completed as well as the beginning of another ascending arch, again inter-
rupted by an expressive breath in the next measure.

Measure 19 completes that arch, letting it descend even lower; it arrives on a
C# in measure 20. This arch, mirroring the motion in the hands, is also letting
down, giving in.

From this point onward, the pedal sings in dialogue with the hands.
In measure 20, it answers the four descending eighth notes of the hands by

singing a rising eighth note response.
It does the same in measure 21, becoming even more tender by responding

with eighth notes which are now longer and by removing the Doublette 2'.
In measure 22, where the hands have all quarters, its response is fragmented,

singing only three heartfelt eighth notes that are hardly detached, becoming
even sweeter with the removal of the Flûte 4'. In measure 23, the eighths are
repeated in an even more touching way, iridescent, rainbow-colored, poetic—
now on the Nazard 2⅔' and Doublette 2'. Finally, in measure 24, only one note
of this theme remains, the beginning D#—lingering longingly.

As the hands continue their rocking motion, the pedal sound is changed to
its lowest and quietest stops. As the final note is profoundly sounded, the pedal
(no longer a solo) becomes a part of the texture of the hands.

The piece ends ecstatically and profoundly on a C# dominant seventh chord
(of F# major). This final chord has a fermata as well as the word long written
above it and the words très profond (very profound) written just below the
pedal note. This chord should sound for a very long time, the performer imag-
ining that it is growing more and more faint, a vision that is disappearing.
When the chord is finally released it should resonate in the room for as long as
possible. This piece is not over until the last bit of reverberation completely
dies away—and even longer. If seen, the performer can greatly help with this
image by remaining completely still in a prayerful attitude.

By the time we reach the climax of this piece our hearts are filled with the
love of God and we feel protected by his all-encompassing arms, which sur-
round us. That represents the summit of our Communion with him. From that
point to the end, that intense feeling subsides. We have experienced the Divine.

20 the 66 masterclasses

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We have been fulfilled in this act of Christian love. As the music ends, we simply
hear it no longer, even though it continues just as the motion of the universe
continues, just as eternity. We will hear it and experience it again the next time
we partake in this act.

The registration of this piece is simple, but it is surprising just how diªcult
it is to adapt to many organs. The addition of the Récit Bourdon and Flûte to
the Voix céleste is not absolutely essential if your string stops alone and Swell
box can provide an adequate crescendo, one which will balance the sound of
the second theme in the Pédale. On the other hand, the character of the music
changes considerably if the Bourdon 16' is not added in measure 12 and re-
moved in measure 19. Obviously, the indication in the score for the hands
to play on the Grand-Orgue with the Récit coupled is simply for convenience.
Choosing the right sound for the Pédale is more complicated: it must be col-
orful without being harsh, perfectly balancing the sound of the hands, being
intermingled with them—not standing out. The exact pitches may differ from
those printed in the score, but they must produce the same effect. If no 1' stop
is available (an often-encountered problem), it might be possible to use two 2'
stops of different intensities.

Le Banquet céleste 21

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