Written by Olivier Messiaen in the German prison camp Stalag VIII A, the 'Quartet for the End of Time' premiered on 15 January 1941. The musicians (on piano, clarinet, cello and violin) played broken instruments, dressed in ragged clothing and wooden clogs, before an audience of five thousand. To quote Messiaen, 'The most diverse classes of society were mingled: farmers, factory workers, intellectuals, professional servicemen, doctors, [and] priests. Never before have I been listened to with such attention and understanding.' Inspired by the first six verses from the tenth chapter of Revelation, the Quartet attests to, in the words of acclaimed clarinetist and professor of music Rebecca Rischin, 'the eternal freedom of the spirit over the temporal captivity of the body.' Rischin examines the fascinating history of the Quartet and its players, encompassing the events that led to its composition and first performance, the experiences of the musicians in the prison camp and the composer's relationship with the German camp officials, whose love of music made the Quartet's composition and performance possible. She also follows the fortunes of the musicians after the momentous premiere. A devoted Catholic, Messiaen 'imagined the moment in which there would be no more Time, in which Time would rejoin Eternity.' Three appendices include the composer's preface to the work, selected discography, and additional commentary. 175 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
The clarinetist Rebecca Rischin has written a captivating book. . . . Her research dispels several long-cherished myths about the 1941 premiere. . . . Rischin lovingly brings to life the other musicians Etienne Pasquier, cellist; Henri Akoka, clarinetist; and Jean Le Boulaire, violinist who played with Messiaen, the pianist at the premiere." Alex Ross, The New Yorker "This book offers a wealth of new information about the circumstances under which the Quartet was created. Based on original interviews with the performers, witnesses to the premiere, and documents from the prison camp, this first comprehensive history of the Quartet's composition and premiere held my interest from beginning to end. . . . For the End of Time touches on many things: faith, friendship, creativity, grace in a time of despair, and the uncommon human alliances that wartime engenders." Arnold Steinhardt, Chamber Music"The clarification of the order of composition of the movements is just one of the minor but cumulatively significant ways in which Rischin modifies the widely accepted account of the events at Stalag VIII A. . . . For the End of Time is a thorough and readable piece of investigative journalism that clarifies some important points about the Quartet's genesis." Michael Downes, Times Literary Supplement The premiere of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time on January 15, 1941, has been called one of the great stories of twentieth-century music. Composed while Messiaen (1908 1992) was imprisoned by the Nazis in Stalag VIII A, the work was performed under the most trying of circumstances: the temperature, inferior instruments, and the general conditions of life in a POW camp.Based on testimonies by the musicians and their families, witnesses to the premiere, former prisoners, and on documents from Stalag VIII A, For the End of Time examines the events that led to the Quartet's composition, the composer's interpretive preferences, and the musicians' problems in execution and how they affected the premiere and subsequent performances. Rebecca Rischin explores the musicians' life in the prison camp, their relationships with each other and with the German camp officials, and their intriguing fortunes before and after the momentous premiere. This paperback edition features supplementary texts and information previously unavailable to the author about the Quartet's premiere, Vichy and the composer, the Paris premiere, a recording featuring Messiaen as performer, and an updated bibliography and discography.