Olivier Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time III. Abîme des Oiseaux
Alison Hughes - clarinet Nathan Thomas - video & audio Many thanks to St Denys Southampton, for the use of their beautiful church. OLIVIER MESSIAEN (1908 – 1992) 'ABÎME DES OISEAUX' (ABYSS OF THE BIRDS) for solo clarinet from Quartet for the End of Time The French composer Olivier Messiaen is known for his unique use of musical colour due in part to a condition called synaesthesia - he saw colours associated with different “colours” in music. This, along with Messiaen’s devout religious faith and passion for depicting birdsong in his compositions, provides a basis for the solo clarinet movement “Abyss of the Birds”. During World War II, Messiaen was interned in a prisoner of war camp known as Stalag VIIIA. Among his fellow prisoners were a clarinettist, violinist and cellist, so during the winter of 1940 Messiaen composed a quartet for these musicians (the composer completed the group on piano). He was regarded by his captors as harmless, and one officer even provided Messiaen with music paper and pencils. Composing gave Messiaen a form of detachment from his circumstances: "If I composed this quartet, it was to escape from the snow, from the war, from captivity, and from myself. The greatest benefit that I drew from it was that in the midst of thirty thousand prisoners, I was the only man who was not one." The title of the work “Quartet for the End of Time” springs from a passage in the Book of Revelation about the descent of the seventh angel at the sound of whose trumpet the Mystery of God will be consummated and who announces "that there should be time no longer." Of the solo clarinet movement Messiaen wrote: "'Abyss of the Birds' for clarinet alone. The abyss is Time with its sadness, its weariness. The birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs." The four musicians performed the complete “Quatuor” on mostly borrowed instruments to around five thousand fellow prisoners on 15th of January 1941.