Biography ~ Bibliography ~ List of Works ~ Gallery ~ Resources ~ News & Concerts ~ Reviews ~ Writings ~ Links ~ MIDI ~ Yvonne Loriod ~ Birdsong ~ OndesMartenot ~ MultiMedia
(1924 ~ 2010)
Yvonne Loriod was born 20 January 1924 in Houilles (Seine et Oise) [Parents Simone and Gaston Loriod and two sisters, Jacqueline and Jeanne Loriod].She began studying the piano at the age of six with her godmother Madame Eminger-Sivade and by the age of fourteen her repertoire included all the Mozart concertos, all the Beethoven sonatas, the Bach '48' as well as the standard classical and romantic works. When she entered the Paris Conservatoire she also studied harmony, fugue, orchestration and composition enabling her to proof read Messiaens' scores and compile the vocal score for Saint Francois d'Assise. Her teachers were Isidor Philipp, Lazare Levy, Marcel Ciampi, Simone Caussade, Joseph Calvet, C. Estyle as well as Messiaen and Milhaud. During her time at the conservatoire she had won seven premier prix.
Although Loriod wrote several works including Grains de cendre (1946) for Ondes Martenot, piano and voice, Pièce sur la souffrance, pour orchestre, probably the only one to be performed in public was Trois Mélopées africaines for flute, ondes Martenot, piano and drum. This was performed with Ginette Martenot, Jan Merry, flute, and percussionist Jacques Boucher on 24th March 1945 at the Société Nationale.
|She performed 22 of Mozart's concertos in a single week with the Lamoureux Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, and Louis Martin and first performed with Messiaen in 1943 for the premiere of his Vision de l'amen. She and Boulez premiered Boulez's Structures, Book 2, in 1961 at Donaueschingen and she taught both at the Paris Conservatoire (1967-89 where she was the youngest professor) and at Darmstadt. Her American debut was the world-premiere performance of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphonie with Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1949. Her phenomenal memory enabled her to learn Bartok's Second Piano Concerto in eight days ready for the first performance at Théatre des Champs-Élyées in Paris on 15th November 1945 with Orchestre National conducted by Manuel Rosenthal.|
Yvonne Loriod was one of the pupils in Messiaen's first class that he held at the Paris Conservatoire after repatriation on the 7th May 1941. She says of
that first encounter that 'all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher
to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers,
a result of his stay in the prisoner of war camp. He proceeded to the piano
and produced the full score of Debussys' Prelude á l'apres-Midi d'un Faune and began to play all the parts. The whole class was captivated and stunned and everyone immediately fell in love with him'.
Messiaen quickly saw in Yvonne Loriod somebody whose dazzling technique and phenomenal memory could interpret his music as he saw it and anything he wrote was possible to play through her. Messiaen once described her as 'unique, sublime and a brilliant pianist, whose existence transformed not only the composer's way of writing for the piano, but his style, vision of the world and modes of thought' (Goléa 1960). Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus, Visions de l'Amen, Catalogue d'Oiseaux, La Fauvette des Jardins, Petites esquisses d'oiseaux and most of the piano parts in his orchestral works are all dedicated to her.
Their working and personal relationship developed over the years and on the 1st July 1961 Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod were married.
She has edited Messiaen's massive Traité de rythme, de couleur et d'ornithologie and continued to perform through the 1990s adjudicating at competitions, including the triennial Concours Olivier Messiaen, Bayreuth, Paris, Munich, Leeds, Aspen and various Messiaen festivals and was Chair for Piano Masterclasses at the Badische Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe.
Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen passed away on17th of May 2010, at 17h 30 (5h 30 PM), in Saint Denis, near Paris. She died in peace, in the presence of her sister Jacqueline and the catholic priest in charge of the community in Saint Denis.
Her recordings achieved 12 Grand Prix du Disque awards.
Click here to view a letter written by Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen to music writer (and synaesthes) Louis Latourre three weeks after Messiaen's death.
A copy of this letter has been added to other Messiaen documents held at the church La Trinité Paris.
Yvonne Loriod (non Messiaen) Recordings Archive
As well as the recordings listed here, Yvonne Loriod made many other recordings
by composers other than Messiaen. Many I'm sure lay in various radio station archives
around the world.
Long since deleted items include:
Bach - Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor and Prelude in C sharp major. Pathé 78 PDT 110
Bach - Chaconne arr. Busoni. Pathé 78 PDT 149/150
Chopin - Barcarolle in F sharp Op.60. Pathé 78 PDT 152
Messiaen -Vingt Regards excerpts. Pathé 78 PDT 170/113
Messiaen - Preludes 5.1 & 3 Pathé PDT 132
The British Library Sound Archive also have a copy of Debussy -
En Blanc et Noir performed with Pierre Boulez recorded by the BBC in 1965.
Mozart Piano Concertos 1/2/3/4
|Yvonne Loriod piano / Orchestra Domaine Musical / Pierre boulez||Vega C30 A 353/4||Vinyl/CD|
|L002||Berg:Sonate op1 / Webern: Variations / Boulez: 2nd Sonate||Yvonne Loriod piano||Vega C30 A309||Vinyl/CD|
|L003||Charles Chaynes: Concerto for piano & Concerto for organ||Yvonne Loriod piano
Marie-Claire Alain organ / Orch Radiofussion -TV France. dir. Serge Baudo
|L004||Stravinsky: Petrouchka||Yvonne Loriod piano / Orch des Cento Soli, Paris dir. Rudolf Albert||The Record Soc
Collection Festival CD
|L005||Debussy: 12 Etudes||Yvonne Loriod piano||Erato STU70432||Vinyl/CD|
|L006||Florilége du Piano: Mozart to Messiaen
Fantaisie in d minor (Mozart) Romance (Mendelssohn) Sonata in Bb op106 (Beethoven) El Polo, Lavapies (Albeniz) Etude Op 25 (Chopin) Etude for the 8 fingers (Debussy) Le Loriot, Par Lui tout a été Fait (Messiaen)
|Yvonne Loriod piano||Erato STU70555/6||Vinyl/CD|
|L007||Albeniz: Iberia complete||Yvonne Loriod piano||Vega C30 127/128
Extracts on Ades CD14.071-2
|L008||DeFalla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain / El Amor Brujo||Yvonne Loriod piano Paris Opera Orch dir. Manual Rosenthal||Ades / Vega C 30 A 192/Ades, ASIN : B00004UKZ1||
|L009||Mozart: Rondo K485 / Sonata 11 K331 / 4 Fantaisies||Yvonne Loriod piano||Ades 13-204-2
From original Vega recording 1959
|L010||Jean Barraqué. Sonate pour Piano / Sequence pour voix, batterie et divers instruments||Yvonne Loriod, piano
Ethel Semser, sop
Rudolf Albert, dir.
|Vega C30 A 180||Vinyl/CDR|
|L011||Boulez: Structures bk2 / Polyphonie X / Poésie pour pouvoir / Pli selon pli||Yvonne Loriod & Pierre Boulez pianos.||
|L012||Varese:Hyperprism, Octandre, intergrales. Schonberg: Suite Op29||
Yvonne Loriod piano
Pierre Boulez dir.
|Vega C30 A271||Vinyl/CDR|
|L013||Schumann: Novelettes Op21||Yvonne Loriod piano||Vega C30 S170||Vinyl/CDR|
Liszt: Sonata in b minor
|Yvonne Loriod piano||Vega C 30 MT 10.259||Vinyl/CDR|
|L015||Bach: Chaconne arr.Busoni||Yvonne Loriod piano||Pathé PDT 149/150||Shellac/CDR|
Chopin: Barcarolle in F sharp Op.60
|Yvonne Loriod piano||Pathé PDT 152||Shellac/CDR|
|Yvonne Loriod piano||BBC Recording||CDR|
|L018||Bach: Concerto in d minor BWV1052||Yvonne Loriod piano
Orchestre National de Paris dir. Marius Constant
|L019||Messiaen, Mozart etc.||Yvonne Loriod: Pianist and Teacher (with the participation of Olivier Messiaen) [DVD] [NTSC]
A film by Francois Manceaux With the participation of Olivier Messiaen Les Lecons Particulieres De Musique
A series edited by Francois Manceaux & Olivier Bernager in partnership with Arte & France Musique.
Bach: Prelude in C sharp major
|Yvonne Loriod||Pathé PDT 110||Shellac/CDR|
Homélie du père Jean-Rodolphe Kars
pour la messe de funérailles
Eglise de la Sainte Trinité, Paris
25 mai 2010
Olivier Messiaen et Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen (années 80)
Lectures (choisies pour cette célébration, par le père Jean-Rodolphe Kars)
Du livre de l’Apocalypse de Saint Jean. [Apocalypse 21]
Puis je vis un ciel nouveau, une terre nouvelle - car le premier ciel et la première terre ont disparu, et de mer, il n'y en a plus. Et je vis la Cité sainte, Jérusalem nouvelle, qui descendait du ciel, de chez Dieu ; elle s'est faite belle, comme une jeune mariée parée pour son époux. J'entendis alors une voix clamer, du trône : "Voici la demeure de Dieu avec les hommes. Il aura sa demeure avec eux ; ils seront son peuple, et lui, Dieu-avec-eux, sera leur Dieu. Il essuiera toute larme de leurs yeux : de mort, il n'y en aura plus ; de pleur, de cri et de peine, il n'y en aura plus, car l'ancien monde s'en est allé." Alors, Celui qui siège sur le trône déclara : "Voici, je fais l'univers nouveau."
Evangile selon Saint Jean. [Jean 6]
Après avoir multiplié les pains, Jésus disait à la foule : "Je suis le pain de vie. Vos pères, dans le désert, ont mangé la manne et sont morts ; ce pain est celui qui descend du ciel pour qu'on le mange et ne meure pas. Je suis le pain vivant, descendu du ciel. Qui mangera ce pain vivra à jamais. Et même, le pain que je donnerai, c'est ma chair pour la vie du monde." …"En vérité, en vérité, je vous le dis, si vous ne mangez la chair du Fils de l'homme et ne buvez son sang, vous n'aurez pas la vie en vous. Qui mange ma chair et boit mon sang a la vie éternelle et je le ressusciterai au dernier jour. Car ma chair est vraiment une nourriture et mon sang vraiment une boisson. Qui mange ma chair et boit mon sang demeure en moi et moi en lui. De même que le Père, qui est vivant, m'a envoyé et que je vis par le Père, de même celui qui me mange, lui aussi vivra par moi. Voici le pain descendu du ciel ; il n'est pas comme celui qu'ont mangé les pères et ils sont morts ; qui mange ce pain vivra à jamais."
- Le 14 mai 1992, en cette église de la Sainte Trinité, la messe solennelle de Requiem pour Olivier Messiaen était célébrée. Bien entendu, Yvonne était présente, très émue et profondément recueillie. Elle était là, avec ses deux sœurs, Jacqueline à nouveau présente aujourd’hui, et Jeanne Loriod, rappelée depuis, à Dieu, en 2001. Le célébrant de cette inoubliable célébration d’il y a dix-huit ans, lui aussi, nous a quittés en 2007. C’était le regretté Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archevêque de Paris. Et déjà, en 1992, Olivier Latry, titulaire des Orgues de Notre Dame de Paris, tenait l’orgue de la Trinité en cette occasion ; et le Chœur grégorien de Paris sous la direction de Louis-Marie Vigne, comme aujourd’hui, animait la liturgie.
Dix-huit ans plus tard, nous voici réunis à nouveau pour accompagner Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen de notre prière et de notre affection profonde, dans sa Pâques, dans le grand passage de cette vie à la Vie nouvelle et éternelle. Le fait que tant d’éléments (que je viens de mentionner) soient communs entre la célébration d’il y a dix-huit ans et celle d’aujourd’hui, souligne d’emblée la relation absolument indissoluble entre les deux destinées : celle d’Olivier Messiaen et celle d’Yvonne Loriod. L’illustre et prodigieuse musicienne pianiste a maintenant rejoint son époux. D’ailleurs, si vous me permettez une note de naïveté, je dirais que la photo que vous avez sous les yeux est attendrissante et éloquente : les deux sont maintenant embarqués pour un long voyage dans l’immensité de l’Eternité, à la rencontre du Christ Jésus, qui était au cœur de leur vie, au cœur de leur amour mutuel, au cœur de leur créativité.
- Il est impossible, dans le cadre de cette célébration, de rendre compte de l’extrême richesse de la vie d’Yvonne. Grâce à son génie, à ses phénoménales capacités, elle a écrit tout un chapitre fascinant de l’Histoire de la musique contemporaine. Richesse manifeste par ses talents et ses prestations, bien sûr, mais aussi richesses intérieures, nécessairement plus connues de ses proches. Une extraordinaire générosité, et même une grande audace dans cette générosité, caractérisait sa relation avec ses amis, avec ses disciples qu’elle arrivait souvent à galvaniser. Son ouverture, son grand sens, très spontané, de l’hospitalité restera dans les mémoires. Et surtout la « cohabitation » en elle entre une inspiration parfois extrêmement élevée (pas seulement en musique, mais aussi en poésie, et même en intuitions théologiques et mystiques)… et un sens extraordinairement concret de l’organisation, et même des travaux domestiques les plus humbles. Au cours de cette célébration, aujourd’hui, il vous revient, chers amis, anciens collègues, anciens élèves d’Yvonne, anciens compagnons fidèles et témoins avec elle de grands événements culturels… et vous aussi les plus proches, les plus intimes,… il vous revient d’explorer dans votre mémoire, dans votre cœur, les inépuisables « archives intérieures » liées à la destinée d’Yvonne, ce qu’elle a été pour vous.
- Certes, nous savons bien que dans l’exploration de ces « archives intérieures », nous trouvons des zones d’ombre, des souvenirs parfois plus douloureux. Comme tout tempérament exceptionnel, celui d’Yvonne connaissait des fragilités. Cela fait partie de ce qu’on pourrait appeler la « météorologie » humaine. La vie humaine (et spirituelle) est analogue à une longue ascension en montagne. Le sentier passe parfois par des zones abruptes, la montée connaît des turbulences. A certains moments, les relations avec Yvonne pouvaient être orageuses. C’est lorsqu’on arrive enfin au sommet de la montagne et qu’on contemple toute la trajectoire d’en haut, que lumières et ombres s’unifient.
Et à nous, qui célébrons cette liturgie, il nous revient de rassembler toute cette mémoire pour l’unifier en action de grâces à Dieu, Lui qui aujourd’hui accueille Yvonne et accomplit sa destinée dans sa Lumière, dans son Mystère d’Amour rédempteur. Il nous revient de rendre grâces pour ce qu’elle a été, et ce qu’elle est pour Dieu, et pour ce que Dieu a été, et est pour elle.
- Car en définitive, ce qui a constamment fondé l’exceptionnelle énergie et l’exceptionnelle efficacité d’Yvonne, c’est sa foi intrépide. Une adhésion de tout son être au trésor de la foi catholique. Au-delà de ce qui pouvait parfois paraître comme l’expression d’une foi « naïve » – la foi du charbonnier – il y avait une compréhension fulgurante du Mystère du Christ, de la Trinité, de l’Eglise, des sacrements. Le sacrement de l’Eucharistie, avec sa promesse de Résurrection, telle que nous venons de l’entendre dans l’Évangile de Jean, était au cœur de sa vie, comme de celle d’Olivier. Il y a plus de quarante ans, une personne m’avait raconté, qu’ayant demandé à Yvonne où elle puisait toute cette confiance, cette assurance au sein d’initiatives parfois téméraires (il s’agissait de programmes de concerts appris en un temps record, avec des œuvres épuisantes de difficulté), Yvonne lui a fait cette réponse : « C’est simple, je me nourris de Jésus ». Réponse presque scandaleuse pour la raison « raisonnante »… réponse si proche des paroles mêmes de Jésus dans l’Évangile d’aujourd’hui : « Celui qui mange ma chair… a la vie éternelle ».
Il y a une dizaine d’années, Yvonne (qui avait beaucoup de talents secrets) a écrit un poème admirable, inédit, en hommage à des prêtres âgés… On y trouve des accents proches du poème des « Trois Petites Liturgies… » d’Olivier Messiaen. Il me plaît de mentionner cet épisode en cette année sacerdotale voulue par Benoît XVI pour l’Eglise Catholique.
- Les dernières années de la vie d’Yvonne ont été très douloureuses. Sa foi rayonnante a été obscurcie par l’épreuve et par le dépouillement progressif et rapide de ses facultés. « Les toutes dernières années de la vie d’Yvonne ont été comme un déchirement, nous dit sa sœur Jacqueline. Depuis quatre ans, elle n’était plus celle qu’on avait connue. Elle l’est vraiment redevenue maintenant ».
C’est le moment de remercier particulièrement les personnes ici présentes qui ont assisté Yvonne avec un dévouement inlassable jusqu’au moment du passage. En particulier sa sœur aînée Jacqueline… et les Petites Sœurs des pauvres de Saint Denis, tout particulièrement Mère Caroline et Mère Isabelle, ainsi que les autres sœurs, si dévouées et si proches au moment de l’épreuve.
Nous voulons saluer avec affection Marie-France, fille de Jacqueline et nièce d’Yvonne ; et Martine, filleule d’Olivier et d’Yvonne.
Qu’il nous soit permis aussi de remercier de tout cœur Olivier Latry et le Chœur grégorien de Paris pour leur participation intense à cette célébration.
Enfin merci de leur présence amicale, reconnaissante et fidèle, aux amis, anciens élèves, organisateurs de concerts, éditeurs, compositeurs ayant bénéficié du génie et des phénoménales capacités d'Yvonne.
- Revenons un instant à la liturgie d'aujourd'hui. Dans la préface des défunts que nous entendrons tout à l'heure, il est écrit : « Pour tous ceux qui croient en Toi, Seigneur, la vie n'est pas détruite, elle est transformée ; et lorsque prend fin leur séjour sur la terre, ils ont déjà une demeure éternelle dans les cieux ». Cette assurance de transformation, de transfiguration, remplit le cœur du croyant d'une secrète jubilation. Et pour vous, amis qui peut-être ne partagez pas (ou pas encore) notre foi, que cette affirmation de l'Église fasse au moins naître une interrogation intérieure... une lumière, même si elle est encore ténue, qui fait poindre l'espérance... l'espérance que l'échec et la mort ne sont pas le point final de notre vie transitoire d'ici-bas. En fait, la liturgie que nous célébrons aujourd'hui nous fait entrevoir que notre propre vie peut, si nous le voulons bien, devenir « liturgie », célébration, qui nous conduit à la Jérusalem nouvelle (et pour nous encore invisible) dont parle la première lecture d'aujourd'hui.
La vie d'Yvonne a été une liturgie, à travers lumières et ombres. Il me semble, chers amis, que toute la vie extérieure et intérieure d’Yvonne s'exprime comme en une sorte de synthèse à travers deux vidéos que vous pouvez trouver sur le site Internet You Tube. On la voit et on l'entend jouer une longue pièce ornithologique pour piano solo intitulée « Le Moqueur Polyglotte », neuvième pièce de l'œuvre orchestrale « Des canyons aux étoiles... » d'Olivier Messiaen. Toute Yvonne est là, dans son interprétation de cette pièce : son audace, son perfectionnisme, son humilité émerveillée, son jeu jubilatoire... Et quand les deux derniers accords retentissent et se prolongent en une longue résonance, on a presque la sensation du passage du monde visible à la mystérieuse Gloire, encore lointaine pour nous, de la Jérusalem d'en haut.
- Nous voici revenus, tout naturellement, à ce que nous disions au début : la relation indissoluble des destinées d'Olivier Messiaen et d'Yvonne Loriod. Il a été dit et redit qu’elle n’a pas seulement été son interprète mais aussi son inspiratrice. Nous savons que la composition des « Visions de l’Amen », des « Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus », du « Catalogue d’oiseaux », est due en grande partie à la confiance de Messiaen en les capacités musicales et pianistiques prodigieuses d’Yvonne (qui, nous le rappelons, est devenue son épouse en 1961, deux ans après la mort de la première femme du compositeur, Claire Delbos). Puis, après le départ de Messiaen en 1992, nous avons cette somme qu’est le gigantesque « Traité de rythme, de couleurs et d’ornithologie » en sept volumes, qui n’a pu voir le jour que grâce au travail acharné d’Yvonne. Elle seule pouvait le faire. Elle a rendu, de manière cachée, un service inestimable aux générations futures, à tous ceux aussi qui n’ont pas eu la possibilité d’assister aux enseignements analytiques de Messiaen pendant près de quarante ans. Qu’elle soit particulièrement remerciée pour cela.
- « Et Dieu essuiera toute larme de leurs yeux ». Ce verset du Livre de l’Apocalypse que nous avons entendu en première lecture nous amène à la conclusion de notre homélie. Ces paroles sont reprises par Messiaen comme titre de l’une des pièces de son œuvre orchestrale ultime « Eclairs sur l’Au-delà… ». Il s’agit de son œuvre ultime achevée. Cette œuvre est composée de onze pièces. Messiaen en avait esquissé les commentaires. C’est Yvonne, en fait, qui a réellement rédigé ces commentaires… Nous lui laissons la parole, avec des extraits du commentaire de la dixième pièce, « Le chemin de l’invisible », et de la onzième pièce, « Le Christ, lumière du Paradis ». En l’écoutant, nous l’accompagnons actuellement dans ce mystérieux pèlerinage de son âme, tel qu’elle semble l’avoir vécu à l’avance en rédigeant naguère ces notes, alors qu’elle était dans le deuil de son illustre époux.
Donc extraits du commentaire de la pièce « Le chemin de l’invisible » : « Il faut suivre ce chemin toute la vie. On n’arrive au bout qu’à l’heure de la mort […] Impression d’une foule qui gravit une montagne […] Aucun repos dans cette pièce […] Le chemin est long, la montée est dure. Seul le Christ peut éclairer cette voie aride et caillouteuse qui mène à la Paix sur le sommet de la montagne lumineuse. »
Et maintenant extraits du commentaire de la pièce « Le Christ, lumière du Paradis » : « C’est l’arrivée, le Bonheur, le Paradis, la Lumière qui est le Christ et qui éclaire l’Eternité […] Cette dernière (pièce) est l’aboutissement de toute la vie. La page est tournée, la terre est loin, le temps est aboli, c’est un présent de bonheur qui ne finira plus. L’Amour infini du Christ dans l’âme qui le contemple… »
Signé : Yvonne LORIOD-MESSIAEN
C’est là qu’il faut la chercher désormais… là, dans ce que nous venons d’entendre… La réalité de sa vie se trouve là, et non pas dans la matière froide du tombeau.
Thoughts and obituaries
Muso magazine – August / September 2010 issue VISIONS
Yvonne Loriod is synonymous with the music of Olivier Messiaen, but her legacy is an inspiration in its own terms, writes former pupil and pianist Matthew Schellhorn
With the death of Yvonne Loriod on 17 May this year, the musical world lost not only a great pianist and teacher but also the catalyst behind some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary music. For some 50 years she was personally linked to Olivier Messiaen, first as his pupil, then as his muse and dedicatee, then as his wife and pre-eminent interpreter.
She was also, to me and to many others, an inspiration. I first met Yvonne Loriod in 1994, two years after Messiaen’s death, when I was a pupil at Chetham’s School of Music. My music teacher had arranged for me to visit her in her dressing room at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, where she was giving a performance of Réveil des oiseaux that evening. I was already in love with Messiaen’s music, and was preparing to perform Visions de l’Amen – the first work written by Messiaen for Loriod, and which she and the composer premiered in 1943. It made a huge impression on me to meet the very person for whom the piece was written. Seeing Loriod perform in concert – on this occasion in partnership with her sister, Jeanne, on ondes Martenot – was also a wonderful spectacle: the two venerable ladies, dressed in matching multicoloured voluminous dresses, captivated the audience with irresistible flair and panache.
Loriod’s playing was, in a word, extraordinary. A child prodigy, who had learned the whole of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas by the age of 14, her pianism was so mature and powerful by the time Messiaen met her in 1941 that it gave him a blank canvas. He is quoted as saying: ‘I could allow myself the greatest eccentricities because to her anything is possible. I knew I could invent very difficult, very extraordinary, and very new things: they would be played, and played well.’ While Messiaen’s early piano style had been rooted in organ-like textures, now he gave free rein to his imagination. So followed a stream of pieces written specifically with Loriod’s remarkable gifts in mind. After Visions de l’Amen came Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (‘Twenty gazes on the Christ-child’, 1944), and then the enormous Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946-48) – ‘like a piano concerto’, Messiaen described it.
Many other works for piano and orchestra followed, but of all the works written for Loriod it is the epic piano cycle Catalogue d’oiseaux (‘Bird Catalogue’, 1956-58) that encapsulates how her incisive playing provided Messiaen with the ‘voice’ his music most required. In her great 1970 recording of the Catalogue, the rhythmic precision and the voicing is belied by the seeming naturalness of the playing. Loriod can be seen in many pictures following the composer in the fields and woods with a tape recorder. Messiaen, of course, delighted in the double entendre of Loriod’s name: in French, Le Loriot is the Golden Oriole, a bird that in the Catalogue has a movement of its own. It was my privilege to prepare the other solo bird pieces, La Fauvette des jardins (‘The Garden Warbler’, 1970) and the Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (‘Small Bird Sketches’, 1985), with Loriod in my mid-twenties. I remember her gift for (vocal) mimicry, and the enthusiasm with which she would continually rush to the bookcase to get books on birds – all duly described in purely anthropomorphic terms, of course. Most of all, I remember the joy she experienced hearing her husband’s music – she always referred to him as Messiaen – music she herself knew so well, and which she must have played and heard hundreds of times.
Loriod was always inquisitive about the new music I was playing, and I was pleased to be able to tell her about the works I was premiering. Her championing of new music takes on a significance when one considers the lesser-known fact that she was a talented composer in her own right. She was modest about her unusual and intriguing musical works. Mostly premiered during the 1940s, they are characterised by their unusual combinations of instruments (Pièces africaines is scored for a bizarre ensemble of flute, oboe, ondes Martenot, guitar, bongos, timpani and two pianos, for example). It is perhaps this personal affinity with Messiaen’s vocation, combined with her other phenomenal skills, which gave this lady the edge in terms of her ability to communicate Messiaen’s music. Yvonne Loriod’s life and career testify to the fact that all new music needs passionate advocates, and all performers have a role to play in the creative process.
YVONNE LORIOD-MESSIAEN – Obituary for International Record Review (June 2010)
By Nigel Simeone
Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen died at Saint-Denis, near Paris, on May 17, 2010, at the age of 86. Born on January 20, 1924 at Houilles (Seine-et-Oise), she studied the piano at the Paris Conservatoire – her teachers included Lazare-Lévy, Isidore Philippe and Marcel Ciampi – and composition with Darius Milhaud. But most important was her encounter on May 7, 1941 with the Conservatoire’s newly-appointed harmony teacher, Olivier Messiaen. Loriod recalled that first class in minute detail – Messiaen pulled a well-thumbed miniature score of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune from his pocket and told the class that it was one of the pieces that he had been allowed to take with him into the prison camp at Görlitz from which he had been liberated a few weeks earlier. It was a meeting that was soon to yield extraordinary results. The first came from a commission Messiaen received in December 1942 from Denise Tual for the Concerts de la Pléiade. In response to this, he composed Visions de l’Amen for two pianos. The first part – elaborate, virtuosic and brilliantly coloured – was written specifically to suit Loriod’s dazzling technique, while the second, dominated by large chords, was written for Messiaen to play. Loriod was just 19 years old when they gave the première of this piece at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris on 10 May 1943, one of the most significant first performances to be given in the city during the German Occupation.
Loriod’s playing was to be a major source of inspiration for Messiaen over the next half century. Straight after Visions, he composed Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus using innovative techniques that evolved from Loriod’s playing. Messiaen wrote that the work “contains many pianistic traits and special effects – a small revolution in writing for the piano – that could certainly never have been realised if I hadn’t heard Yvonne Loriod’s earliest concerts.” Messiaen’s greatest piano works constitute a striking example of a composer’s style of writing being directly influenced by the performer for whom he was composing. The dedication of the printed score of the Vingt Regards reads simply “À Yvonne Loriod”, but an unpublished version suggests a deeper musical relationship: “À Yvonne Loriod, dont la technique égale le génie, et qui a compris ma mission” [To Yvonne Loriod, whose technique matches her genius, and who has understood my mission]. In the years to come, Messiaen composed solo and concerted works for piano all of which were written with Loriod in mind, including the flamboyant piano part of the Turangalîla-Symphonie (which Messiaen often described as “like a piano concerto”), to the grandest and most inventive of all his piano cycles, the Catalogue d’Oiseaux.
The first complete performance of the Catalogue d’Oiseaux took place in April 1959, the same month that Messiaen’s first wife Claire Delbos died after many years of illness. Almost every weekend, Loriod had accompanied Messiaen to visit Claire in the nursing home where she spent the last few years of her life. Loriod’s devotion and support during this difficult and distressing time was of critical importance to Messiaen. Two years after Claire’s death, Loriod and Messiaen married, and spent their honeymoon in Japan. The musical result was another work for Loriod: the Sept Haïkaï.
In Messiaen’s later years, many of his finest pieces were written for her, or featured important piano parts for her to play. As well as La Fauvette des jardins – Messiaen’s postscript to the Catalogue d’Oiseaux and his longest single movement for piano – he composed a number of works for piano and small orchestra or ensemble – including the marvellous Oiseaux exotiques, Couleurs de la Cité céleste and Des Canyons aux étoiles. His last solo piano work was the exquisite (but fiendishly difficult) set of miniatures Petites esquisses d’oiseaux. Loriod told the charming story of how this piece came as a complete surprise to her. In July 1985,Messiaen and Loriod arrived in Petichet to spend the summer months in the peace and quiet of the Dauphiné. For several weeks the composer told his wife that he was not to be disturbed in his studio as he needed to concentrate on correcting proofs. In fact, he was hard at work composing the Petites esquisses, which he presented one day to Yvonne as an entirely unexpected gift.
From the start of her career, Loriod was an apostle for new music. She was encouraged to explore new music by her godmother Nelly Sivade – who had given Yvonne some of her earliest piano lessons. She gave a monthly series of private recitals in Mme Sivade’s house, starting in about 1940. The composers who came to hear her play their works included Jolivet, Honegger, Poulenc and Migot. Coincidentally, Mme Sivade lived at 53 rue Blanche, just up the road from La Trinité where Messiaen was organist. At the same time, she also learned Messiaen’s Préludes, and it was at Mme Sivade’s in 1943 that Loriod and Messiaen rehearsed Visions de l’Amen, and gave a private performance on the eve of its première to an audience of a dozen people including Poulenc, Jolivet and Honegger.
She attended Messiaen’s private classes (held at Guy Bernard-Delapierre’s house) with Pierre Boulez whose music she played regularly, especially the Second Sonata and Structures: Loriod and Yvette Grimaud gave the first complete performance of Book I at Cologne in 1953, and Loriod and Boulez introduced Book II at Donaueschingen in 1961, as well as giving several early performances of the Second Sonata. Loriod certainly didn’t restrict herself to modern French repertoire. After two other French pianists had declared the work unplayable, she gave the successful Paris première of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto (a concert reviewed enthusiastically by Messiaen among others), and was one of the few pianists in Paris in the 1950s to play the music of Berg, Schoenberg and Webern.
In Autumn 1964, with Messiaen’s enthusiastic encouragement (which extended to writing several cadenzas for her – unpublished – as well as all the programme notes), Loriod gave a complete cycle of Mozart piano concertos in a marathon series of concerts with conductors including Boulez and Bruno Maderna. Though many of these pieces were still a rarity in the concert hall, Loriod had known them all since her teens (along with a dauntingly extensive repertoire of solo works).
Loriod began making records in the mid-1940s for Pathé, recorded extensively for Véga/Adès in the 1950s, and subsequently for Erato, with appearances on other labels including Deutsche Grammophon and Koch. Her recorded legacy is substantial and, in some respects, surprising. Not only is there a large body of contemporary music, including all the works Messiaen composed for her (many of them recorded more than once) along with music by Boulez, Barraqué, Charles Chaynes, Berg, Schoenberg, and Webern, but there also some important cornerstones of the standard repertoire: Beethoven’s Hammerklavier, a dozen of the Chopin Études and Barcarolle, Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, Schumann’s Novelettes, solo works and concertos by Mozart, keyboard music by Bach, Debussy’s Études, and Albéniz’s Iberia – a set for which Messiaen wrote the sleeve notes – as well as the piano parts in Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Stravinsky’s Petrushka.
At the Paris Conservatoire – where she was appointed as a piano professor in her 20s – Loriod’s pupils included several outstanding players of Messiaen’s music, notably Michel Béroff, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Roger Muraro, as well as George Benjamin (at the same time he was studying composition with Messiaen) and Paul Crossley. She was a devoted teacher, and following her retirement from the Conservatoire she gave advice to a number of younger players, including Steven Osborne and Matthew Schellhorn.
Though Loriod was very reticent on the subject, she was a talented composer. Her Trois Mélopées africaines– for voice, flute and ondes Martenot – were performed at the Société Nationale de Musique in March 1945, and reflect her own interest in non-European music and literature, as well as her enthusiasm for unusual instrumental combinations. The following year her Petits poèmes mystiques were written for Marcelle Bunlet (Messiaen’s favourite dramatic soprano) and Irène Joachim (the legendary Mélisande), and an ensemble including several percussion instruments, piccolo, harp and piano. Grains de cendre, also written in 1946, is a song cycle for soprano, flute and piano using texts inspired by Arabic poetry and scored for voice, flute and piano. This was broadcast on October 15, 1948, by the soprano Gabrielle Dumaine, flautist Jacques Mule, and Loriod herself. An earlier set of Pièces africaines for instrumental ensemble dates from 1943. The four movements entitled Râga, Chanson soudanaise, Berceuse and Chant d’une Ksourienne, scored for the extraordinary combination of flute, oboe, ondes Martenot, guitar, bongos, timpani and two pianos. The influence of African and Arabian subjects is intriguing and shows considerable originality, not least because Messiaen and Milhaud (Loriod’s composition teacher) tended to look further East (to India) or West (to South America).
After Messiaen’s death, Loriod continued to perform his music with undiminished vigour, but she also took on the gigantic task of co-editing Messiaen’s Traité de rythme, as well as preparing new editions of several works, and completing the Concert à quatre. In addition, she also worked for almost ten years on putting her husband’s archives in order. It was in connection with this that I had many encounters with Yvonne Loriod, and these are cherished memories. I saw her on a number of occasions between 2001 and 2005, and for three months in the autumn of 2002 I worked almost every day in the studio adjacent to her apartment, where she had carefully arranged Messiaen’s private archives, and – with great generosity – made it all available. Better still from my point of view, whenever I had questions about an event or a person, she was on hand to provide answers, and often told me much more than I had dared hope, providing detailed reminiscences, and speaking with moving candour about her evolving relationship with Messiaen. It was remarkable that at no point during the writing of the biography of Messiaen that I co-wrote with Peter Hill did she seek to intervene in any way. Instead she urged us not to write a hagiography, and to tell the story as we thought best; she gave blanket permission to use whatever documents we wanted, and saw none of the text until the finished book was printed. When the first copy came off the presses, I took it straight to Yvonne in Paris. She sat down with the book, sat me opposite, produced a large pot of strong coffee, and began to read. An anxious two hours later – and to my immense relief – she smiled broadly, and pronounced herself happy with the results.
As well as a being serious-minded, utterly dedicated to the music she was playing, and expecting others to live and work by the same exacting standards that she set herself, Loriod had a whimsical and mischievous side too, and a wicked sense of humour. In particular, I remember a taxi journey from the Châtelet Theatre back to her flat in Montmartre in 2002. Myung-Whun Chung had just conducted a superb Turangalîla with Roger Muraro as an inspired soloist (“You know”, she said at the end, “it’s such a lovely change for me to hear someone else playing this piece!”). The cab ride afterwards yielded half an hour of delicious musical gossip that was as funny as it was (and is) unrepeatable. Her last public performance was in Berlin in 2002 (La Transfiguration, with Kent Nagano) but she continued to attend concerts of Messiaen’s music (including a few during the composer’s centenary year in 2008, when she was already very ill) and to serve on the jury of the Messiaen piano competition, until retreating from public life, spending her final years being cared for by the Petites Soeurs des Pauvres in Saint-Denis.
Yvonne Loriod: Pianist who became the muse and foremost interpreter of the works of her husband Olivier Messiaen
Thursday, 20 May 2010. The Independent
Yvonne Loriod's name will always be connected with that of her husband Olivier Messiaen, whose piano works she championed faithfully for six decades. Indeed, one of her best-known students, Paul Crossley, made a telling analogy:
"The musical partnership of Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod was, I am quite certain, as important as that of Robert and Clara Schumann. Like Clara Schumann, Yvonne Loriod was muse, companion, adored wife, interpreter par excellence and – for lucky privileged people like me – inspired teacher."
Messiaen was unstinting in his praise of this "unique, sublime and brilliant pianist, whose existence transformed not only the composer's way of writing for the piano, but his style, vision of the world and modes of thought".
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, another of her star pupils, identified the change: "Before they met, his piano music reflected his organist's background: it was less virtuosic, less challenging, it had less variety. And all of a sudden he integrated all the brilliant pianistic ability of this young prodigy."
Messiaen's music demands brilliance and precision and Loriod's complete technical control – her rhythmic accuracy, her control of tone, her pedalling, her ear for colour – made her its perfect vehicle.
She began studying the piano at the age of six and at 11 transferred to her Austrian godmother, Nelly Eminger-Sivade. By the time she was 14, she had under her fingers all 32 Beethoven sonatas, the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach's Well-Templered Klavier, all the Mozart concertos, Chopin and Schumann, and most of the rest of the standard repertoire – she was, in Aimard's words, "a monster in the best sense of the term!"
This rollercoaster of achievement continued at the Paris Conservatoire. Her piano teachers there read as a roll-call of the great and good in the French piano tradition: Isidor Philipp, Lazare-Lévy and Marcel Ciampi. She took Simone Caussade's fugue class, as well as studying harmony (with André Bloch), orchestration and composition. Her ability and appetite for work brought her no fewer than seven premiers prix at the Conservatoire. She would return to the Conservatoire as a professor in 1967, remaining for a quarter-century.
Her first encounter with Messiaen came in May 1941 when he was released from a German POW camp in Silesia and could return to teach at the Conservatoire, as she later recalled: "all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers, a result of his stay in the prisoner of war camp. He proceeded to the piano and produced the full score of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune and began to play all the parts. The whole class was captivated and stunned and everyone immediately fell in love with him."
Musical life in occupied Paris naturally took on non-musical symbolism, as in the defiant series of 10 concerts organised by Denise Tual, the founder of the "Concerts de la Pléiades", which mixed contemporary French music, neglected older works and pieces from abroad. Tual's commission to Messiaen resulted in the Visions de l'Amen, a huge cycle of seven pieces for two pianos first performed on 9 May 1943 – by the composer and Loriod – at a private run-through chez Madame Eminger-Sivade, where their audience included the publisher Gaston Gallimard, Claire Delbos (Messiaen's wife) and the composers Arthur Honegger, André Jolivet, Francis Poulenc and Gustave Samazeuilh. The "public" premiere (it was an invited audience) took place a day later.
The pattern of their lives was now set, Loriod's presence lubricating Messiaen's imagination; he once said that knowing she would be playing his music allowed him to indulge in "the greatest eccentricities". Work after work was dedicated to her: the massive Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus (1944), the Catalogue d'Oiseaux (1956–58), La fauvette des jardins (1970), Petites esquisses d'oiseaux (1985). Many of his other works had a prominent piano part, composed with Loriod in mind, among them the Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine, another Tual-Pléiades commission (1943–44), the Turangalîla-Symphonie, a commission from Serge Koussevitzky in Boston (1946–48) – its premiere, in 1949, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein, constituted her US debut – and Oiseaux exotiques (1955–56).
Messiaen's devout Catholicism found reflections of the divine everywhere he looked; birds thus became "God's musicians" and, with Loriot driving him around the countryside, he notated birdsong with a passion, incorporating it into his own compositions. He observed with delight that her surname is the French word for "oriole".
But Loriod did not live on a musical diet of Messiaen alone. In November 1945 she learned Bartók's Second Piano Concerto in eight days, for a performance in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées with the Orchestre National conducted by Manuel Rosenthal – an illustration of the "phenomenal memory" Pierre-Laurent Aimard observed. She premiered Book 2 of Pierre Boulez's two-piano Structures with the composer at Donaueschingen in 1961. Four years later she played 22 Mozart concertos in five weeks, with the Orchestre Lamoureux under a team of conductors (Bruno Maderna, Pierre Boulez and Louis Martin). And her recordings of Jean Barraqué's Sonata and Boulez's Second – both of which she had premiered – were landmarks at a time when almost no other pianist was involved in this repertoire. In the long run she was to win no fewer than 12 Grands Prix du Disque.
Messiaen, though, was the lodestar, and it was no surprise when in July 1961 – two years after the death of his first wife, Claire Delbos, who had long been institutionalised through mental illness – he and Loriod were married. They had been in love for years; their faith meant they could not act on it until his first wife had died.
He then moved into Loriod's flat in Montmartre, which they gradually expanded as neighbouring properties became available. They lived simply, amid Bibles and music, with Loriod acting as musical factotum as well as executant. Perhaps her most devoted act was the preparation of the vocal score of the opera Saint-François d'Assise (1975–83), a task requiring near-unimaginable perseverance and patience.
Loriod assured a Messiaen tradition not only through her own playing; his music was an important element in her teaching, too. As Paul Crossley observes: "Virtually all of us with reputations as Messiaen exponents were her pupils. I think, in many ways, we were her 'family'. Indeed, the last time I saw her she embraced me as 'mon petit Paul', as she had always called me although I was then almost 60 years old!"
Pierre-Laurent Aimard experienced the same dedication: "she was very warm about her students, very much committed to them – and perhaps to some extent we were substitutes for the children she never had. And of course she looked after several generations of students. She was passionate, as a teacher, too, and precise, always indicating carefully what should be done: she was clear in her markings and her remarks, always following her own convictions.
Crossley found that she "passed on all her secrets, all her magic, with a selflessness, a zeal and a good humour (there was nothing of the 'grande dame' about her) that were exemplary. Her teaching was always rigorous, technical and analytical – solid foundations on which one could build one's own interpretations."
Both men remark on her unquenchable energy, which found her continuing to perform into old age. She edited Messiaen's huge Traité de rythme, de couleur et d'ornithologie, posthumously published in seven volumes. She was also a respected figure on the juries of piano competitions, not least the triennial Concours Olivier Messiaen, but also at Aspen, Bayreuth, Leeds, Munich, Paris and elsewhere.
Although Loriot studied composition with Darius Milhaud until 1948, her own compositions are early and few in number. They include Grains de cendre (1946) for flute or ondes Martenot, soprano and piano, and the orchestral Pièce pour la souffrance; the only one performed in public seems to have been Trois Mélopées africaines for flute, ondes Martenot, piano and drum, heard at the Société Nationale in March 1945. But the experience must have come to her aid when, with George Benjamin, another Messiaen student, she orchestrated his incomplete final work, the Concert à quatre.
A cerebral haemorrhage three years ago brought an abrupt stop to Loriod's hitherto unflagging activity, and she had been in slow decline ever since. One of her two sisters, Jeanne, the leading player of the ondes Martenot, had drowned in 2001; but the other, Jacqueline, and the local priest were with her at the time of her death, in a retirement home to the north of Paris.
Roger Nichols The Guardian, Tuesday 18 May 2010
The French pianist Yvonne Loriod, who has died aged 86, was for half a century the inspirer and accredited interpreter of the piano music of Olivier Messiaen, and for three decades his devoted wife. She was also a dedicated champion of the piano works of Pierre Boulez, André Jolivet, Jean Barraqué and Arnold Schoenberg, and an influential teacher.
Born in Houilles, on the north-western outskirts of Paris, she began to play at the age of six. Her father was a good improviser at the piano; her godmother, Madame Sivade, began to give her lessons when she was 11, and later prepared her for entry to the Paris Conservatoire. By the age of 14, Loriod had already learned the whole of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, all the Beethoven piano sonatas, the complete works of Chopin and Schumann and all the Mozart piano concertos.
At the Conservatoire she studied first with Lazare-Lévy for piano and André Bloch for harmony. When the Nazis deported both these teachers in the early months of the Occupation (during which she used to give recitals of music by "Bartholdy", the Nazis never realising this was the banned Mendelssohn), her piano studies resumed under Marcel Ciampi and her harmony ones under Messiaen, who returned from his prison camp to the Conservatoire in May 1941.
Messiaen was quick to recognise her extraordinary musical abilities, and in the early months of 1943 wrote his two-piano work Visions de l'Amen, in which he took creative account of her particular technical strengths, incorporating into her part, that for the first piano, "the rhythmic difficulties, the chord clusters, everything which is velocity, charm and sound quality", while reserving for himself "the principal melodic material, the thematic elements, everything which demands emotion and power". If this division of labour, together with what the composer referred to as Loriod's rôle de diamantation in the Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine, premiered two years later, suggests a traditionalist view of feminine pianism, Loriod's command of keyboard power was amply recognised in the solo cycle Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus, which she premiered in the Salle Gaveau, Paris, on 26 March 1945.
From then on, she was the muse not only for his piano works but for most of his orchestral ones as well – as he said in late life, "I'm married to a great pianist and I always imagine her in the midst of the orchestra" – and when, in the late 1950s, Heinrich Strobel commissioned what would become Chronochromie, he felt obliged to specify, "This time, no ondes martenot and no piano!" Of the twelve orchestral works Messiaen wrote from Turangalîla (1946-48) onwards, no fewer than nine include a part for piano; the quasi-vocal swooping of the electronic ondes martenot was often executed by Loriod's sister Jeanne.
Loriod won no fewer than seven first prizes at the Conservatoire, including one for piano in the summer of 1943, and studied composition with Darius Milhaud until 1948. But by this time she had decided to become a pianist rather than a composer and started on her successful international career in that year. Although she played Mozart often, including a cycle of 22 of his piano concertos in Paris within five weeks in 1964, her reputation was made in contemporary music, much of which was almost or entirely unplayed by others - one suspects as much for technical as for aesthetic reasons. Other first performances, apart from those of Messiaen's works, included Boulez's Second Piano Sonata (1950) and Structures II at Donaueschingen with the composer at the other piano (1961), Barraqué's Piano Sonata (1957) and Jolivet's Second Piano Sonata (1959). She also made a number of pioneering recordings in this repertory.
After a spell teaching at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe, she was appointed a professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire in 1967, and remained there for a quarter of a century. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Paul Crossley and Roger Muraro were among her pupils. She also gave masterclasses worldwide and was much in demand on juries, where her experience and total command of all things musical lent her a natural authority.
In 1959, Messiaen's first wife, the composer and violinist Claire Delbos, died, and Loriod gave the first performance of the Catalogue d'Oiseaux. She and the composer got married two years later and had a working honeymoon in Japan, from which sprang the orchestral work Sept Haîkaï. Messiaen moved in to her flat in the rue Marcadet and, as other apartments became vacant, they knocked through walls and installed 15cm-thick soundproofing. For these last 30 years of Messiaen's life, until his death in 1992, she acted as proofreader and musical factotum - making the vocal score of his opera Saint François d'Assise took two years. Expected visitors were assured of a warm welcome and, if they were British, of tea.
No doubt living with Messiaen, as with most geniuses, had its ups and downs, though the downs seem to have been very few. An unpublished letter of Darius Milhaud, written from Aspen, Colorado, says: "Les Messiaen sont ici. Comme toujours, charmants et impossibles." Given that Messiaen found the real world of timetables and electric plugs hard to crack, Loriod was called upon to be manager and travel agent as well as wife and interpreter. On his bird-listening trips she would be in charge of the tape recorder and would be expected to sleep in haystacks or barns in order to be up for the dawn chorus. Her demurrers at travelling to Bryce Canyon in Utah or New Caledonia ("wouldn't Assisi do?") went for nothing; although when it came to it, they both enjoyed these exotic trips enormously.
Loriod edited a number of her husband's posthumous works, notably the Concert à Quatre. When the definitive history of 20th-century music comes to be written, she will find an honoured place, not only as an exceptional pianist, but as one who, because her technique made possible for Messiaen what he called "the greatest eccentricities", had a profound and lasting effect on that music, both pianistic and orchestral. She is survived by her sister Jacqueline.
• Yvonne Loriod, pianist, born 20 January 1924; died 17 May 2010
Yvonne Loriod: musician, mentor, muse
Far more than Olivier Messiaen's widow, Loriod was a superb pianist, champion of new music and a fine composer in her own right.
The death of Yvonne Loriod, Olivier Messiaen's widow, brings a great dynasty of French musical life to an end, after Messiaen's death in 1992 and that of her sister, the ondes martenot virtuoso Jeanne Loriod, in 2001. Yvonne was Messiaen's second wife. He had fallen in love with her when she was a teenage student of his at the Paris Conservatoire and she was his muse for five decades (they only married in 1961 after the death of Messiaen's first wife, Claire Delbos, in a sanatorium, after many years of mental illness). Loriod's playing was the inspiration for music from the gigantic cycle Vingt regards sure l'enfant-Jésus, for solo piano, to the piano parts of orchestral pieces like the Turangalila Symphony and Des canyons aux étoiles.
But Loriod's reputation was not only due to her unique relationship with her husband's music: she was one of the most powerful and persuasive of advocates of music by Pierre Boulez and Jean Barraqué, at a time when hardly any pianists anywhere were playing - or could play - modernist behemoths like Boulez's Second Sonata or the Barraqué Sonata. And together, she and Messiaen were mentors and models for musicians like composer George Benjamin (who studed with Loriod in Paris when he was 16, and remembers her as a "wonderful, exuberant, radiant" teacher) and Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who they adopted as their one of their pianists du choix in the 70s, when Aimard was still in his teens.
Yvonne's legacy is inevitably tied to her husband, but she was a great musician in her own right - and she was a composer too, as well as co-orchestrator of Messiaen's last orchestral work, the Concert à quatre. On YouTube, you can hear her pianistic brilliance in music by Boulez and Berg, as well as in some of the music her husband wrote for her - and you can see her play the piano solo in Des canyons aux étoiles here.
Yvonne Loriod dies aged 86
Pianist and widow of Olivier Messiaen remembered
Yvonne Loriod, the pianist and widow of Olivier Messiaen, has died aged 86.
Born 20 January 1924, she was a leading light among the post-war generation of performers and composers, quickly gaining a reputation for exceptional virtuosity, making light of the most fearsome contemporary scores, and an extraordinary memory.
She gave the French premiere of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto to great acclaim at just eight days’ notice, when the intended soloist dropped out having declared the work unplayable. Loriod championed the music of composers such as Boulez, Barraqué and Henze, but she was also lauded for her accounts of works by Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Bach, Berg, Schoenberg, de Falla, Albéniz, Beethoven and Debussy.
Loriod was a champion of the latter’s Études at a time when they were still regarded as arid, and she made an exceptional recording of Beethoven's Hammerklavier. A gifted pedagogue, she was also much in demand for the juries of piano competitions.
Nonetheless, it is with the music of Messiaen that her name has become synonymous, having been the catalyst for the piano taking centre stage in numerous of his works from the 1940s onwards, either in vast cycles for the instrument, such as Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (1944) and Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956-58), or as soloist in orchestral canvasses such as Turangalîla-Symphonie (1946-48), La Transfiguration (1965-69) and Des canyons aux étoiles... (1972-74).
They met in 1941, when Messiaen was appointed Professor of Harmony at the Paris Conservatoire, where she was a student. Within a couple of years, he began writing the first of many works inspired by Loriod’s tigerish pianism, Visions de l’Amen for two pianos. He would later apologise to other pianists negotiating his music, explaining that he never had to worry about its difficulty as he knew that Loriod could play anything.
Messiaen and Loriod eventually married in 1961, and her devotion to him was total. Following his death in 1992, she undertook the herculean task of preparing his seven volume Traité de rythme, de couleur et d'ornithologie (Treatise on rhythm, colour and ornithology) according to Messiaen’s plan, as well as the scores of his final works and various rediscovered pieces from much earlier in his career.
In one of the short films accompanying his 2005 DVD of the Vingt Regards, Roger Muraro relates that he and Loriod had visited Messiaen’s grave ten days earlier: ‘Madame Loriod told me: “I loved him, and I love him still”’.
Christopher Dingle BBC Music Magazine
Yvonne Loriod, pianist and Messiaen's wife, has died
Born January 20, 1924; died May 17, 2010
Wed 19th May 2010. Gramophone Magazine
The opportunity to observe Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic rehearsing Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony in January 1988 with the composer present was too good to pass up. Yet time and again the 63-year-old piano soloist unwittingly stole the show by virtue of the massive chords, dazzling passagework, and long lyrical lines that seemed to shake from her arms with no effort. The sonority never splintered as it flooded Avery Fisher Hall, yet Yvonne Loriod presided with calm authority, achieving impressively fluid and colourful results with the utmost in physical economy. To watch her was to hear her, and one quickly realised why Loriod long had been Messiaen’s artistic muse.
Loriod, who died aged 86 on May 17, 2010 in St Denis, met her future husband when she was his teenage student at the Paris Conservatoire (they married in 1961, two years after the death of Messiaen’s first wife Claire Delbos), and her prodigious pianism and well-grounded musicianship inspired the composer’s large-scale piano works from the Vingt Regards sur l’enfant-Jésus and Catalogue d’oiseaux cycles to the substantial piano parts in orchestral works such as the aforementioned Turangalila, Oiseaux exotiques, Trois Petits Liturgies de la Presence Divine, and Des canyons aux étoiles. In turn, her own extensive compositional training enabled her to proof her husband’s scores, prepare the piano/vocal edition of his monumental opera St Francois d’Assise, and co-orchestrate his final work Concert à quatre.
Although Loriod frequently performed and recorded her husband’s music, she commanded a large, all-embracing repertoire, some of which is preserved on disc. In 1964 she played 22 Mozart Concertos over a five week period with the Lamoureux Orchestra, and gave the French premier of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto, learning the piece with only eight days’ notice. A fervent advocate for the music of her time, Loriod premiered the second sonatas of Boulez and Jolivet and Barraqué’s Sonata in concert and on disc. She instilled this duty in her students at the Paris Conservatoire, where she taught from 1967.
“I have all my young pianists playing the young composers,” Loriod told a New York Times journalist. Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Paul Crossley and Roger Muraro are just a few of Loriod’s distinguished former pupils. Loriod is survived by her sister Jacqueline.
Yvonne Loriod, who died on Monday aged 86, was a celebrated French pianist, a champion of the electronic ondes Martenot instrument, and a specialist in the music of her husband, Olivier Messiaen.
Published: 6:52PM BST 18 May 2010
She first met the composer, who was 16 years her senior, when she joined his harmony class at the Paris Conservatoire in 1942, soon after his return from a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp in Silesia. She recalled how "all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers". Nevertheless, she liked his open manner of teaching, a contrast to the old-fashioned methods of other teachers. "For me it was an explosion," she said. "It shook all my preconceptions."
Yvonne Loriod had already attracted attention as a child prodigy. Taught by her Austrian godmother, one Nelly Eminger-Sivade, she knew all the Beethoven sonatas and Mozart concertos by the time she was 12. Messiaen heard her in concert and was impressed. She also played his eight Preludes. "I found them quite easy. God gave me a very good memory," she recalled.
Within months of their meeting she was firmly installed as his muse; Messiaen composed a work for two pianos, Visions de l'Amen, for them to play together and it led to a world tour even before the war ended. They fell in love, but he was already married to Claire Delbos, a composer and violinist with a debilitating mental illness. Delbos was eventually institutionalised, leaving him to bring up his young son, Pascal, alone.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Messiaen could not divorce his wife, nor would he commit adultery. "So we cried," Yvonne Loriod recalled. "We cried for nearly 20 years until she died and we could marry." (They wed in 1961, two years after Delbos's death.)
All Messiaen's piano music composed after 1943 was written for Yvonne Loriod, including Vingt regards sur l'enfant Jésus (1944) and the many birdsong works, such as Oiseaux exotiques (1956) and Catalogues des Oiseaux (1958). He said that he allowed himself the "greatest eccentricities" in his writing because he knew that she would master them effortlessly.
With her sister Jeanne, who drowned in 2001, Yvonne Loriod became the best known champion of an instrument called the ondes Martenot (translated as Martenot waves), which was invented by Maurice Martenot in 1928 and is widely regarded as a precursor to the synthesizer. The player is able to produce eerie, wavering notes – sometimes described as "celestial howling" – by varying the frequency of oscillation in a series of vacuum tubes. Messiaen first used it in Fête des Belles Eaux in 1937.
The instrument achieved particular notoriety in the composer's Turangalîla Symphony (1948) – said to be an expression of sexual frustration during his years of celibacy – when it appeared alongside a solo piano. As often as not Yvonne Loriod would be at one of the instruments while Jeanne would be at the other. Messiaen's opera St François d'Assise includes three ondes Martenots.
When Messiaen wanted to compose his musical catalogue of birds, Yvonne Loriod drove him round the country in her Renault as he recorded what he called "God's musicians". She later recalled: "He noted the birdsong and in the evenings he would make a more detailed score. He adored wildlife. He wouldn't even kill a mosquito. One day in the country his score was covered with flying ants. 'Can't you get rid of them?' he asked me, 'but don't hurt them.' I took the score outdoors and got the insecticide."
Yvonne Loriod was born in Houilles, to the north-west of Paris, on January 20 1924, one of three sisters. At the Paris Conservatoire her teachers included Lazare Lévy, Marcel Ciampi and Darius Milhaud. She won seven premiers prix and composed a number of works.
In 1945 Yvonne Loriod learnt Bartók's fiendish Second Piano Concerto in just eight days for a performance with the Orchestre National de Paris under Manuel Rosenthal; by the age of 25 she was a professor at the Conservatoire.
Yvonne Loriod championed not only Messiaen but also other avant-garde composers: she recorded music by Jean Barraqué and Pierre Boulez, and excelled in the music of Bartók and Schoenberg.
Her American debut was with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in December 1949, playing the ondes Martenot in the Turangalîla Symphony with Leonard Bernstein conducting; the work received its British premiere in a BBC studio broadcast in June 1953 under Walter Goehr. According to The Times, Yvonne Loriod "played the solo piano part brilliantly". She was, however, suspicious of the BBC and always insisted on receiving her fee in cash before a performance.
She was at the Edinburgh Festival in 1965, but the following year, when the New Philharmonia Orchestra was forbidden by the Musicians' Union from bringing over a French ensemble for the British premiere of Messiaen's Les Batteurs, she and her husband were so furious that they refused to have anything further to do with the concert.
In 1972 the couple visited the canyons of Utah, him capturing the songs of the local birds, her photographing him standing alone in the enormous crevasses, depicting what he described as the "immense solitude" of the place. The result was the majestic Des Canyons aux Etoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars). A similar, month-long expedition to Australia in 1988 in search of the lyrebird led to a movement of Eclairs Sur l'au-delà (Illuminations of the Beyond).
For the last three decades of Messiaen's life the couple lived a simple and devoutly religious life near Montmartre, surrounded by crucifixes, a copy of the Bible and their recordings. Her husband, despite his success, remained organist at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris – a post he had held since 1931 – until his death in 1992.
Yvonne Loriod – a small, snug lady known as Tante Yvonne – then devoted herself to his memory. She discovered and published forgotten works that she found among his papers and gave occasional concerts, such as her appearance at the Barbican in 1999. The author Alex Ross notes how the conductor Kent Nagano, when asked for a revealing anecdote about the couple, could come up with no more than a tale of how they once devoured an entire pear tart in one go. She never called her husband by his first name, only Messiaen or maître.
All she wished for, she told interviewers, was "a good death, so that I can go to heaven and be by his side".
Yvonne Loriod is survived by her sister, Jacqueline.
Times on line
Yvonne Loriod: pianist and composer
When Yvonne Loriod and Olivier Messiaen were married on July 1, 1961, they had known each other for 20 years, as pupil and teacher, working colleagues and close friends. It was almost certainly a marriage made in heaven, all the more enduring for the patience and fortitude with which it was attained.
Messiaen had written most of the music that would secure his reputation as one of the most important and influential composers of the century; Loriod had found fame as a versatile, resourceful pianist of dazzling technique and as a doughty champion of the avant- garde. But their strict Catholic principles meant that they were unable to marry until the composer’s mentally unstable first wife, confined to a sanatorium in ever-declining health following a botched operation, had died. Thereafter they were a devoted couple, scarcely ever apart, each enriching the other’s careers and inner lives.
During the long period of enforced courtship, Loriod was nothing less than Messiaen’s muse, a channel for a love that could only truly speak — publicly and privately — through the great, ecstatic works which he composed during the 1940s and 1950s and in her authoritative renditions of them. In the first of them, Visions de l’amen, he wrote a grand, multi-movement cycle for them both to play. From then on, in all of the works featuring piano, Loriod herself took centre stage, firstly in the prominent solo part of Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine (1943-44), and then in Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944), a two-hour solo cycle composed at astonishing speed in only a year.
Love, both mystical and carnal, was also the theme of Messiaen’s other great works from this period — the song cycle Harawi (1944), the Cinq rechants for twelve mixed voices (1948) and the Turangalîla-symphonie (1946- 48), which, again, features a big piano part for Loriod and in which she made her American debut, in 1949, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein. It is, as in all the music he wrote for her, perfectly moulded to her playing style, “richly sonorous, rhythmically acute, slicing into the keyboard to display extraordinary cascades of colour”, as the New Grove Dictionary puts it. It was also an approach that was completely unsentimental and free of any kind of false, self-serving love.
As Messiaen’s international career accelerated from the 1960s his interest in birdsong grew and in writing for the piano he was able to indulge more, as he himself put it, in “the greatest eccentricities”. Accordingly, the piano writing takes on a more brilliant yet brittle cast and the musical structures become bewilderingly episodic. Loriod embraced the new challenges with a generous heart and steady head, most notably in the Catalogue d’oiseaux, an almost three-hour representation of French provincial birdlife that baffled many at its premiere in 1959.
Loriod was a phenonemenal, all-round musician. Despite her prim, bespectacled appearance she contained within her compact stature tremendous reserves of energy, unlocking the bohemian within. Her playing was vital and precise, her ability to memorise superhuman — she learnt Bartók’s difficult Second Concerto in only a week — and her finely-tuned Catholic intellect was as formidable as her steely fingers. One of her greatest achievements after Messiaen died was to steer his theoretical summa, the disordered attempts at a Traité de rythme, de couleur et d’ornithologie towards coherence and, between 1994 and 2002, publication in seven large volumes of his work printed on fine ivory paper.
She also applied her tidy mind and extraordinary energy not only to performing, recording and editing his music but into providing the essential infrastructure and protection that allowed the unworldly composer to function in modern society and under the glare of increasing publicity, ordering his home life, dealing with paperwork and callers, and accompanying him on concert tours and birdsong collecting expeditions — always one step behind with tape-recorder and handbag.
After the composer died in 1992 and, as Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen, she officially absorbed his name into her own, her generosity to serious researchers faciliated a number of important books published during the composer’s centenary year in 2008, including the first significant biography of her husband, by the British scholars Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone.
Yvonne Loriod was born in Houilles, near Paris, in 1924. One of her two sisters, Jeanne, went on to become the most famous exponent of the ondes Martenot, whose eerie, banshee wailings featured in several of Messiaen’s works. By the standards of some virtuosos she was a relatively late starter and was 6 before she had her first piano lessons, with her godmother, Madame Eminger-Sivade. But she made characteristically rapid progress and by the age of 14 she had learnt Bach’s “48”, Mozart’s concertos, Beethoven’s sonatas and many of the standard classical and romantic works.
When she entered the Paris Conservatoire she added harmony, fugue, orchestration and composition to her portfolio of skills and won seven premiers prix. Her teachers included Marcel Ciampi, Isidor Philipp, Lazare Lévy, Simone Caussade and Joseph Calvet, as well as Milhaud and Messiaen. Although she did not consider herself to be a composer, a number of compositions by her date from this time, including Grains de cendre for ondes Martenot, piano and voice, Pièce sur la souffrance for orchestra and Trois Mélopées africaines for flute, ondes Martenot, piano and drum.
Messiaen had arrived at the Conservatoire in the spring of 1941. Loriod was one of his pupils and recalled, “all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers, a result of his stay in the prisoner of war camp. He proceeded to the piano and produced the full score of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and began to play all the parts. The whole class was captivated and stunned and everyone immediately fell in love with him.”
She was soon making a name for herself independently of Messiaen and was particularly associated with those composers who had been her contemporaries at the Conservatoire, notably Jean Barraqué and Pierre Boulez, whose second book of Structures she introduced with the composer at Donaueschingen in 1961 and whose Second Sonata she recorded alongside Berg’s Sonata and Webern’s Variations.
She performed standard repertoire too, not least 22 of Mozart’s concertos in a single week with the Lamoureux Orchestra, conducted by Boulez, Bruno Maderna and Louis Martin, and recorded major works by Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Albéniz.
Later, at the Paris Conservatoire, where she was the youngest professor, and at Darmstadt, she mentored many of the French pianists who came to prominence during the 1960s and 1970s, among them Pierre-Laurent Aimard, whom, following his success in the Concours Olivier Messiaen, the couple hoped would carry the Messiaen flame into the 21st century.
Loriod continued to perform through the 1990s and she regularly adjudicated at competitions, including the triennial Concours Olivier Messiaen, and at various Messiaen festivals. The recordings of her husband’s music she made over the years for Erato and Deutsche Grammophon are definitive and received a dozen Grand Prix du Disque awards.
Yvonne Loriod, pianist and composer, was born on January 20, 1924. She died on May 17, 2010, aged 86
New York Times
Yvonne Loriod, Pianist and Messiaen Muse, Dies at 86
By PAUL GRIFFITHS
Published: May 18, 2010
Yvonne Loriod, the French pianist whose musical exactitude and intensity inspired numerous masterpieces by her husband, the composer Olivier Messiaen, died on Monday at a retirement home in Saint-Denis, on the edge of Paris. She was 86.
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Ms. Loriod had been in declining health since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage three years ago and had recently broken a hip, said Roger Muraro, a former student and close friend, who confirmed her death.
There may be no parallel in musical history to the performer-composer relationship that Ms. Loriod and Messiaen maintained across half a century. It gave rise not only to two immense Messiaen solo works — “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus” (“20 Glances at the Child Jesus”) and “Catalogue d’Oiseaux” (“Bird Catalog”) — but also to shorter pieces and quasi concertos, ranging in scale from the huge “Turangalîla Symphony” to “Oiseaux Exotiques” (“Exotic Birds”), for piano with a tight group of wind instruments and percussion.
The presence of birds in so many of these works was no accident. For Messiaen, birdsong provided intimation of the music of heaven, unclouded by human egotism. He and Ms. Loriod would often go off in search of these natural singers, with Messiaen notating their melodies in the field and later incorporating them into his music.
In Ms. Loriod he found a musician who could provide avian qualities of agility and spectacle. “I have,” he once said, “an extraordinary, marvelous, inspired interpreter whose brilliant technique and playing — in turn powerful, light, moving and colored — suit my works exactly.”
It delighted him that her name was homophonous with that of a singing bird: the loriot, or golden oriole, which duly has its place in “Catalogue d’Oiseaux.”
“If Messiaen did not have a Loriod, a pianist wife like her, Messiaen probably would not be Messiaen,” said Mr. Muraro, who is a specialist in the composer’s music.
Ms. Loriod’s performances, in gowns of vibrant color, were exciting to watch, and even more so to hear. In her extraordinary range of timbre, achieved not only by touch but also by the split-second timing of attack and pedaling, she brought to the music the rainbow brilliance it needed. In her sense of rhythm as pulsation, especially in fast music, she gave it the energy it craved.
To some extent those qualities were written into the music under her influence. Messiaen became, from the time he met her, a more assertive and more public composer, and he paid far more attention to the piano.
Yvonne Loriod was born in Houilles, a town six miles northwest of Paris, on Jan. 20, 1924. She had piano lessons from childhood, as did her sister Jeanne, four and a half years younger. Jeanne Loriod, who died in 2001, became a leading exponent of the electronic instrument the ondes martenot.
Yvonne Loriod’s first teacher, Madame Sivade, who was also her godmother, had Yvonne giving monthly recitals as a young girl. By 14 she knew the whole of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and all 32 Beethoven sonatas.
She went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire, where she met Messiaen when he arrived in 1942 to take a class in harmony. Along with Pierre Boulez and other classmates, she became a member of Messiaen’s intimate group, with whom he would discuss his music, modern music generally and the music of other continents.
His awareness of Ms. Loriod’s pianistic prowess came soon: in 1943 he wrote “Visions de l’Amen” for the two of them to play on two pianos. That was followed by “Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine” (“Three Little Liturgies of the Divine Presence,” 1943-44), for women’s choir and small orchestra with solo piano, and “Vingt Regards” (1944). “Visions” was presented by Messiaen and Ms. Loriod in May 1943, when Paris was still occupied; the two other works were performed in early 1945.
After this triptych of sacred concert works, Messiaen produced, from 1945 to 1949, what he called his Tristan Trilogy, on the theme of cosmic love. It was a glorious outburst of love music, and though Ms. Loriod performed in only two of the pieces — the song cycle “Harawi,” evoking Peru, and “Turangalîla” — it seems clear she inspired all three. (The third piece was “Cinq Rechants,” or “Five Refrains,” for small chorus.)
Ms. Loriod had become the focus for musical feelings that the composer had directed toward his first wife, Claire Delbos, in the 1930s but who by the 1940s was suffering a long physical decline.
In the 1950s, all the music Messiaen wrote for Ms. Loriod was bird-inspired: the concerto “Réveil des Oiseaux” (“Awakening of the Birds”), “Oiseaux Exotiques” and the “Catalogue.”
Ms. Delbos died in 1959, and two years later Ms. Loriod and Messiaen were married. A tour of Japan was their honeymoon, remembered by Messiaen in his “Sept Haïkaï” (“Seven Haiku”), for piano and small orchestra. (Ms. Loriod also traced her expertise in Japanese cuisine to that trip.)
In 1962, Ms. Loriod performed all the Mozart concertos at the Conservatoire, whose faculty she joined in 1967. From this point on she concentrated on her pupils — among them Michel Béroff, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Mr. Muraro — and her husband. Ms. Loriod and Messiaen traveled the world together and welcomed students to their apartment in Paris.
Messiaen’s flow of music for her continued, from big solo parts in the concert-length concerto “Des Canyons aux Étoiles ...” (“From the Canyons to the Stars,” 1971-75) to a part in the unfinished “Concert à Quatre” (“Concerto for Four”).
Ms. Loriod recorded everything her husband wrote for her, in many cases more than once, and these recordings will remain an essential part of the Messiaen legacy. Invaluable, too, was the work she did after his death, in 1992, in editing his writings, not least his 4,000-page treatise on rhythm.
Ms. Loriod is survived by a sister, Jacqueline, and a stepson, Pascal Messiaen. Ms. Loriod moved to the Saint-Denis retirement home, in a leafy area, after her cerebral hemorrhage three years ago. There she could hear birds sing, Mr. Muraro said. In recent months, however, she had remained shut inside. “It’s spring and the birds are just beginning to sing now,” he said, but Ms. Loriod did not get to hear them.
Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting
WEDNESDAY, 19 MAY 2010
Yvonne Loriod - musician and muse
Yvonne Loriod has passed away, aged 86. All the newspaper obits are out, standard pieces, written long ago, some cobbled together from material on Olivier Messiaen. He was the love of her life and centre of her existence. But there was much more to "Mrs Loriod" as Pierre-Laurent Aimard charmingly calls her. She deserves a tribute in her own right.
Not so easy, because she was self-effacing, letting Messiaen take the limelight, but she was formidably talented. She was an extremely good pianist, playing at a high level, certainly not just Messiaen. She came to Paris to learn composition, and attracted the eye of Nadine Boulanger. Boulanger had a serious animus against Messiaen, so when Loriod took up with Messiaen she was immediately dropped from Boulanger circles. Not that Loriod cared. Messiaen's empathic, open-minded approach to music was much more Loriod's thing, anyway, apart from the fact she fell in love.
Because Messiaen was such a devout Catholic, marriage was out of the question, as his first wife was hospitalized for what seems to have been some kind of mental problem. Loriod and Messiaen didn't actually live together but shared three floors of the same building.. One floor his, one floor hers and the one in the middle was teaching space. She taught too, becoming a professor at an early age. Yvonne and her sister Jeanne were both pianists, both learning the Ondes Martenot and performing round the world. (Both also continued playing piano.) In the late 1990's they both came to London to play: two tiny elderly ladies exuding charm. Sadly Jeanne died soon after. Yvonne lived on, but was too frail to come to London in 2008 to celebrate Messiaen's centenary (curated by Aimard, and bigger than the Paris commemorations).
Loriod and Messiaen were so much of a unit that it's arguable he would not have achieved quite as much as he did without her presence. Her name means "Oriole", so when the song of an oriole appears in his music, there's an extra level of meaning. Loriod is a presence in most of his music, even indirectly. He composed entirely on his own, bringing out new works only near completion, but she was musician enough herself to comment intelligently.
Plenty can, and has, and will be written about Loriod's influence on Messiaen's art, but she contributed in simple, practical ways, too. She knitted the enormous, multi-coloured scarf he wears in one of the most famous photographs. It's too huge and too extrovert to be something you'd find in a shop. He knew what it meant, so he wears it with a huge grin. She was the "practical one" who made arrangements, fixed the tape recorders and apparently drove a car. She was also the emollient one, who kept up friendships such as with Boulez (pictured here) with whom she was close (same age). She mothered Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the son she never had, and adored his children. She'll be remembered of course as Messiaen's life partner and muse, but she was someone very special herself.
Posted by Doundou Tchil
LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 18.05.10 | 14h07
La pianiste Yvonne Loriod est morte
Le piano du XXe siècle vient de perdre l'une de ses grandes figures : Yvonne Loriod, la muse et seconde épouse du compositeur Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), dont elle fut la principale interprète, est morte à l'âge de 86 ans.
Admise il y a trois ans dans une maison de retraite de Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) à la suite d'un coma diabétique, elle y est morte lundi en fin d'après-midi. "C'était une personnalité très forte, exceptionnelle dans son domaine, une figure de proue de la découverte de la musique de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle", a témoigné, très ému, le pianiste Roger Muraro.
Née le 20 janvier 1924 à Houilles (Yvelines), Yvonne Loriod a montré très tôt des dons musicaux et des capacités d'apprentissage exceptionnelles. Adolescente, la pianiste a déjà à son actif un répertoire comprenant tout Chopin, 22 concertos de Mozart et les 32 sonates de Beethoven. Au conservatoire de Paris, où elle décrochera sept premiers prix, elle étudie dans la classe d'analyse d'Olivier Messiaen, en compagnie de Pierre Boulez. A partir des Visions de l'amen (1943), qui datent de cette époque, elle créera toutes les œuvres avec piano du compositeur.
"UN DÉVOUEMENT TOTAL"
"Elle a été d'un dévouement total à la cause Messiaen, qu'elle trouvait génial et dont elle a été éperdument amoureuse dès leur rencontre", dit Roger Muraro. Mais le compositeur, d'abord marié à la violoniste Claire Delbos, n'épousera Yvonne Loriod qu'en 1961, deux ans après la mort de sa première femme des suites d'une longue maladie.
Très présente discographiquement (pour les labels Vega, Erato, Ades...), Yvonne Loriod enregistre Debussy, Albeniz ou Berg mais aussi des concertos de Mozart avec... Pierre Boulez, dont elle créera le deuxième livre des Structures pour deux pianos (avec le compositeur) en 1961. Doté d'une technique virtuose, elle offre les premières auditions de pièces d'André Jolivet et Jean Barraqué. Elle révèle au public français des pages de Bartok et Schönberg.
Mais c'est surtout l'œuvre de son mari que cette organisatrice hors de pair contribuera à diffuser dans le monde entier, tenant au besoin la partie de piano, comme dans la fameuse Turangalîla-Symphonie, au côté de sa sœur, Jeanne Loriod, joueuse d'ondes Martenot. Une musicienne capable de réduire pour deux pianos le monumental opéra de son mari, Saint François d'Assise, d'orchestrer son Concert à quatre et d'apporter les corrections nécessaires aux épreuves de ses pièces. Quitte à renoncer à composer elle-même – seules trois œuvres de sa main sont connues.
Yvonne Loriod aura aussi été une grande pédagogue, au fil de ses déplacements en Europe ou en Amérique mais surtout au conservatoire de Paris de 1967 à 1989, où elle transmettra à plusieurs de ses élèves pianistes (notamment Michel Béroff, Roger Muraro et Pierre-Laurent Aimard) la passion de Messiaen. Selon Roger Muraro, Yvonne Loriod doit être enterrée "la semaine prochaine" auprès de son époux, non loin du lac de Petichet à Saint-Théoffrey, dans le Dauphiné si cher au couple Messiaen.
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