Martin Fröst

New album release: Messiaen Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps

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MARTIN FRÖST

OLIVIER MESSIAEN: QUATUOR POUR LA FIN DU TEMPS

INTERNATIONAL RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 3, 2017

A Personal Response to a Classic for Our Own Times

The Quartet for the End of Time is intensely personal music and it deserves an equally personal response from anyone playing it now. When Martin Fröst overheard a rehearsal through an open window as a teenager at a music camp, he was transfixed: ‘I was bewitched … and I ended up walking away from the house that day with a different view on the world.’

It was the first work he played with Janine Jansen when they met 16 years ago and the cellist on that occasion was Thorleif Thedéen. This was a transforming experience for all three musicians. Martin Fröst remembers it as ‘one of life’s rare and profound musical moments, when everything comes together and you are left with a deep sense of connection not only to the piece, but to each other – we have been trying to find the right circumstances to record the piece together ever since.’

Finally, these musicians have brought this cherished project to fruition, joined by the brilliant pianist Lucas Debargue. The deep expressive power of the Quartet was brought home to them once again – and the time was right too: ‘As the world has been marking and reflecting upon the several anniversaries of the World Wars in recent years, it felt that now was the perfect time to get this project off the ground, especially too as I feel the music, is still as relevant in today’s political climate as it was in 1941.’

Composed in a Prisoner-of-War Camp

Composed in Stalag VIII-A, a prisoner-of-war camp at Görlitz, the Quartet for the End of Time has an extraordinary genesis. Messiaen was among thousands of French soldiers taken prisoner in June 1940 and at a transit camp near Nancy he composed the solo clarinet movement, ‘Abîme des oiseaux’, for Henri Akoka, who gave the first performance of it there, with the cellist Etienne Pasquier holding the music for him. Messiaen, Akoka and Pasquier were all taken to Stalag VIII-A and these gifted musicians soon met another, Jean Le Boulaire, a violinist who went on to a successful acting career (under the name Jean Lanier, his first film was Marcel Carné’s 1943 classic Les Enfants du paradis).

To compose a piece for violin, clarinet, cello and piano (his own instrument), Messiaen needed manuscript paper to write it down. Thanks to the kindness of Karl-Erich Brüll, a German guard, Messiaen was given the paper he needed and got to work. When he finished the ‘Intermède’ for clarinet, violin and cello, Messiaen rehearsed it with the musicians in a bathroom before working on the rest of the Quartet. A battered piano was found (its notes stuck), and the camp commander arranged for an inexpensive cello to be purchased for Etienne Pasquier to play. Under such challenging circumstances, it was little short of a miracle that the Quartet was composed and performed at all – but it was, and a masterpiece was born.

An Extraordinary Premiere

The premiere was given at 6:00 p.m. on 15 January 1941 and Messiaen later claimed that the audience consisted of ‘5,000 prisoners’. In fact it was nearer 400, crammed into the camp’s makeshift theatre. The weather across Northern Europe was brutally cold in January 1941 and it was around –20C at Görlitz. How did the audience react to hearing this extraordinary music in such difficult circumstances? According to Messiaen and Pasquier, they listened with great concentration, but the camp newspaper reported that ‘while there was fervent enthusiasm on some rows, it was impossible not to sense the irritation on others. … But it is often a mark of a work’s greatness that it has provoked conflict on the occasion of its birth.’

TRACKLISTING

I. Liturgie de cristal

II. Vocalise, pour l’ange qui annonce la fin du temps

III. Abîme des oiseaux

IV. Intermède

V. Louange à l’éternité de Jésus

VI. Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes

VII. Fouillis d’arcs-en-ciel, pour l’ange qui annonce la fin du temps VIII. Louange à l’immortalité de Jésus

 

TOUR DATES – Quatuor pour la fin du temps

November 8, 2017: L’Auditori, Barcelona Spain (with Henrik Mawe and Members of Armida Quartet) 

December 4, 2017: Club Musical de Québec, Ville de Quebec Canada (with Janine Jansen, Torleif Thedeen, Lucas Debargue)  

December 5, 2017: The Royal Conservatory, Toronto Canada (with Janine Jansen, Torleif Thedeen, Lucas Debargue)  

December 7, 2017: Carnegie Hall, New York City USA (with Janine Jansen, Torleif Thedeen, Lucas Debargue)  

 


Fröst named Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Fröst named Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Martin Fröst
©2013