“The abyss is time, with all its weariness and gloom. The birds are the opposite of time; with their jubilant outpourings of song they represent our longing for light, for stars, for rainbows!”
Birdsong is the most timeless and evocative of natural sounds. Debussy and Ravel’s painterly impressions for solo piano lead us to the direct transcriptions of birdsong which infuse Messiaen’s mystical contemplations on the Nativity.
Quartet for the End of Time was written in 1941 within the wintry reality of a Silesian prisoner-of-war camp where Messiaen was sustained by a visionary passage from Revelations.
In it, Messiaen reflects on time and immortality in startling passages which transcend the divides between the visual and the aural, evoking rainbows, angels, colours, forms, fire, stone, ice, the trumpets of the Apocalypse and finally the ascent to Paradise.
The readings, by writers including Shakespeare, Keats, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Laurie Lee and Olivier Messiaen, offer their own mysterious dialogue with the music, reflecting on time, infinity – and birdsong.
There will be a free pre-show talk on Messiaen by Paul Boucher, beginning at 6.15pm
Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
Violin: Katharine Gowers has performed in recital and as a chamber musician throughout the UK and abroad, collaborating with such artists as Alfred Brendel, Imogen Cooper, Isabelle Faust, Steven Isserlis, Christian Tetzlaff and Denes Varjon. During 2018 and 2019 she taught for two and a half months at Bolivia Clásica, a non-profit organisation and music school based in La Paz, Bolivia.
Clarinet: Sacha Rattle is a much sought-after chamber musician, collaborating with artists such as Isabelle Faust, Lars Vogt, Katia and Marielle Labèque, François Leleux, and Peter Donohoe. Sacha is a founding member of the award-winning ensemble Berlin Counterpoint. This season’s highlights include Wigmore Hall, Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music, a USA tour, with Berlin Counterpoint, Madrid with the Linien Ensemble, and as guest principal with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Cello: Thomas Carroll was a member of the Young Concert Artists Trust in London and New York, and has since appeared as soloist with several of Europe’s leading orchestras. As a chamber musician he has worked with the Belcea and Chilingirian Quartets, Michael Collins, Gidon Kremer, Steven Isserlis and Janine Jansen. Thomas made his conducting debut in Berlin in 2006 and is Professor at the Royal College of Music and at the Yehudi Menuhin School.
Photos c. Penelope Fewster