© 2019 Malcolm Ball


The Olivier Messiaen Foundation was formed to preserve and cherish the work of Olivier Messiaen, one of the major composers of contemporary music in France in the twentieth century.
The Olivier Messiaen Foundation was created in 1995 under the aegis of the Fondation de France by his widow Yvonne Loriod Messiaen 3 years after the death of her husband. 
The foundation will enable the creation of a museum, concerts, master classes etc. at Petitchet in the Isère region of France and also contribute to the conservation of manuscripts, works annotations and belongings. Much of these documents have already been entrusted to the National Library of France (BNF). The Foundation also supports young composers and pianists, as well as researchers or authors dedicated to the work of Olivier Messiaen.

The Olivier Messiaen Foundation, under the aegis of the Fondation de France, told the BNF all manuscripts, archives, scores, records, books, photographs and objects collected by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) and his wife Yvonne Loriod Messiaen (1924-2010), be held at the BNF forthwith.

Messiaen himself had already given some documents in the 50's and others had been filed by Yvonne Loriod Messiaen after 1992.
Nearly two hundred fifty linear meters of documents (manuscripts of his works, letters, books, photographs, sound recordings, programs) have now joined the departments of 
Music and Audiovisual in the National Library of France.
The material will be gradually made available to researchers, musicians, music lovers worldwide.

Fauvettes de L'Hérault - concert des garrigues - (work reconstructed by Roger Muraro)
At the turn of the 1960s, Olivier Messiaen left unfinished the composition of a great concerto that he could have titled Les Oiseaux de l'Hérault. The work, for piano, several soloists and orchestra, was to respond to an official commission for the centenary of Claude Debussy, in 1962.

The trip to Japan by Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod in the summer of 1962 disrupted the development of this concerto. The fascination that Messiaen had for this country inspires him indeed Sept Haïkaï for piano solo and small ensemble. Undoubtedly pressed by the deadlines, he resumed and adapted some of the themes of the concerto, to Sept Haïkaï. It is by mixing songs of birds of Japan and some of southern France that the composer would pay tribute to Debussy.

If the first works found in the concerto propose a too brief orchestration, the score of the piano solo, on the other hand, is magnificent, brilliant and among the most daring of this period. Based on birds' notes taken in 1958 in the Hérault, the work reveals new songs, including the improvisations of a stunning polyglot Hypolaïs and warblers who compete with virtuosity.

Taking again the indications of structure left by the author, Fauvettes de l'Hérault - garrigue concert is the title I chose to give to the piece for piano alone, among those evoked by Messiaen in the manuscripts of the concerto.
I thank the Fondation Olivier Messiaen and the BnF for their unfailing support of my work. (Roger Muraro)

Tokyo naturally imposed itself for the world premiere. Roger Muraro performed Fauvettes de l'Hérault - concert of the garrigues for piano solo, at Toppan Hall, on June 23, 2017, underlining in fact the close links between this new work and Sept Haïkaï.

***Messiaen world premiere at the BBC Proms 2015 
thanks to Birmingham Conservatoire academic***

Christopher Dingle, Professor of Music at Birmingham Conservatoire, has devoted much of his professional career to studying Messiaen.
The new piece Un oiseau des arbres de Vie will most likely be the last mature orchestral work to emerge from the catalogue of one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. The composition was previously intended for Messiaen’s final completed orchestral work Éclairs sur l’Au-Delà… (1987-91) and contained his familiar signature ‘Bien’ indicating the movement was complete.
The movement lasts about four minutes and the material comes from Messiaen’s transcription of the song of the Tui, a New Zealand bird. A keen ornithologist, all of Messiaen’s music from the 1950s onwards includes birdsong, while much of his music expresses his Catholic faith.

Christopher Dingle’s research on the piece was supported by the French Music Research Hub at Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, and he drew on over 20 years’ study of Messiaen’s oeuvre to fully realise the three-stave score.


He said: “From everything we know of Messiaen, it is almost certain that he would have used this movement in another work had he lived longer – it is too good a piece to discard. I am hugely excited about hearing the piece, and this is likely to be the last premiere of a complete mature orchestral movement by Messiaen.

“Birdsong was a fascination of his throughout his life, but he became more rigorous and scientific in his approach from the 1950s onwards. He filled many manuscript books with birdsong notations, and much of it was done in the field, but he also used recordings, working the birdsong into his compositions.
“His use of birdsong is much more sophisticated than any other composer in terms of the species he represented, the interpretation of song, and the notation. He regarded birds as God’s musicians, almost like angels.”

Un oiseau des arbres de Vie is a challenging piece. The orchestra is very large, the woodwind section including seven flutes and eight clarinets, while there is also plenty of tuned and unpitched percussion, and multiple changes of tempo.
Dingle added: “It’s fast and furious, with the song flying around the instruments and continually punctuated by a punchy gesture for the whole orchestra. I think it will be breath-taking for the audience and leave the conductor and orchestra breathless!”

The world premiere of Olivier Messiaen’s Un oiseau des arbres de Vie took place on 7 August at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. It was performed by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Nicholas Collon.


The eagerly awaited recording of La Fauvette Passerinette by Peter Hill relased by Delphian DCD34141.
La Fauvette Passerinette – a Messiaen world premiere, with birds, homages and landscapes (Messiaen, Stockhausen, Ravel, Anderson, Dutilleux, Sculthorpe, Young, Takemitsu,Murail and Benjamin). 

The Gillian Weir Messiaen Prize
will be awarded annually for the next 10 years for the best performance by a student at Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire of a work or works by French composer Olivier Messiaen.

During her illustrious international career, Dame Gillian has been particularly renowned for her performances of Messiaen’s organ music; she made the first commercial recording of the complete works, gave the UK première from the composer's manuscript of the ‘Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité’, and has written, lectured and broadcast extensively on his music. 

Concerning the gift, she spoke of her admiration of the work being done in the Conservatoire’s Organ Department and congratulated them on their glowing international reputation. The award was facilitated by Conservatoire organ tutor Henry Fairs, whose own career has also included complete performances of the composer’s music. 

Daniel Moult, the current Head of Organ Studies, commented:
“All of us in the Organ Department are honoured and delighted that Dame Gillian should aid our students in such a generous and palpable way. Many young musicians are in need of every conceivable financial assistance, and this prestigious prize will be much coveted and appreciated for years to come in the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.”

Part of Birmingham City University, the new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is a unique contemporary building, incorporating five public performance spaces including a new 500 seat concert hall for orchestral training and performance, a purpose-built organ studio and private rehearsal and practice rooms. Furthermore, as the first purpose built conservatoire in the UK since 1987, the £57 million institution which opened last year is the only one of its kind in the country designed for the demands of the digital age.
The Organ Studio at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, for example, houses a Eule Pipe organ with extensive plans for additional new instruments, and features overhead performance lighting and a Dante audio network for flexible location recording purposes.
The venue has a distinctive shape and tranquil atmosphere created by natural light flooding onto the pale wood of the interior. It is completely flexible in terms of the set-up and layout of the performance area and audience seating.
Meanwhile, organ music plays a vital role in the life of the city of Birmingham, with regular recitals given by City Organist Thomas Trotter and guests on the Town Hall’s historic instrument by William Hill and Symphony Hall’s Klais organ. Birmingham is also home to the libraries of the Royal College of Organists and the British Institute of Organ Studies.

The first Gillian Weir Messiaen Prize competition will took place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, with the winner awarded £1,000. See Gillian Weir's Homepage

Dame Gillian Weir and Olivier Messiaen


"Our generation is the fortunate recipient of this remarkable testament to Gillian Weir's intellectual, spiritual and musical affinity with Messiaen's music. Messiaen's own recordings inspire us, but Gillian Weir's transport us to a seemingly ideal plane, where music, technique and organ sound blend into something greater than their parts."
[Organists' Review, February 1995]

In the year which marks the 10th Anniversary of the composer's death, Priory Records announces the reissue on its own label of Gillian Weir's legendary recordings of the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen. When the set was originally issued by Collins Classics, critics all over the world were unanimous not only in their praise of the performances, but also in their respect for the fundamental musical affinity between performer and composer. "This corpus of organ music - incontrovertibly the most profound and significant of the twentieth century - has here found a recording which in itself is a landmark in the history of recorded sound" wrote one critic. "There is no doubt that Gillian Weir's recording of the complete Messiaen is the reference by which all other performances will now be judged", wrote another. BBC Music Magazine chose the set as one of its "Best CD's of 1994".

The complete cycle - which Messiaen personally urged Gillian Weir to commit to CD - was recorded on the famous organ of Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark during January and February 1994: the original recordings were made in association with BBC Radio 3.

Priory have remastered the recordings and made the series available separately for the first time: there are four single CD's, and one double CD, the latter including the Livre du Saint Sacrement. Dame Gillian herself has written booklet notes for the series, reflecting many decades of association with the composer and his organ music. The first CD [PRCD 921 - La Nativite du Seigneur, Le Banquet Celeste, L'Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle] was issued on 29 October 2002 when Dame Gillian opened the 2002/3 Organ Recital series at London's Royal Festival Hall.
These are superb recordings and Priory have done a magnificent job in making them available again with excellent presentation enhanced by Mark Rowan-Hull's artwork inspired and based on Messiaen's music.

The fifth and sixth volume are combined into this final 2-CD set. The works include Livre du Sacrement, and three new additional works published after Messiaen's death:
• Prélude
• Monodie
• Offrande au Saint Sacrement
These three pieces were not in the original issue of this series, but were recently recorded for this re-release series on the same organ at Århus Cathedral. 
This disc also contains an exceptional 30-page booklet that is becoming a notable hallmark of each disc in this series:
• Notes by the player herself, recognised as a Messiaen authority throughout the world, writer on his organ music in Faber's The Messiaen Companion, and and able to give unique insights into the way a performer thinks about the music;
• Reproductions of original paintings by Mark Rowan-Hull who is famous for translating into visual terms his vision of the organ music of Messiaen;
• Articles by distinguished scientists from Oxford and London Universities on the latest research into synaesthesia;
• Stoplists of the Århus organ as well as La Trinité, with descriptions of Messiaen's experiences and changes he desired on that instrument;
• List of organ works, when and if they were published and performed;
• Timeline of important milestone's in Messiaen's life.
“Gillian Weir's cycle remains the best of all, and she, playing the marvellous Frobenius instrument at Århus, brings that special spaciousness and intensity to the Livre that distinguishes her cycle as a whole... It is, quite simply, one of the finest organ recordings ever made.”
Arnold Whittall, October 2004 Awards issue of Gramophone

Visit Gillian Weir's Homepage