Piano music

Olivier Messiaen's piano music dominates his era, With the scale of the two great cycles, the originality
of the language, the technical innovations, the emotional, spiritual and poetic content, this output, which
- if we include Visions de I'Amen for two pianos - represents more than eight hours of music, constitutes
asummit in contemporary musical creation, And its presence in the repertoire of an ever-growing number
of pianists further attests to this: this music, which is both vibrant and secret, this music, born of polemics
that have not all been extinguished and which is, for the pianists who tackle it, extremely demanding, has
henceforth encountered its audience, It will have taken only three or four decades for Messiaen's piano
masterpieces to appear alongside those of Chopin or Debussy, to mention two names so dear to the heart
of our composer.
Once upon a time, a young boy, like so many others, places his fingers on a keyboard, He is six years old,
Ilis father has been called up (this is the "Great War"; the son will participate in the next one" ,j, and his
Illother settles with her two sons in Grenoble where her brother, a doctor, lives, There is no musical
oIlllecedent in the family: his father is a professor of English (and an eminent translator of Shakespeare),
Ills mother the poetess Cecile Sauvage, But the boy's destiny is in music, and he will enjoy quoting this
1III1lfJllnitory maternal verse: "I suffer from a musical distance that I am not aware of", Thus, he learns the
1'1;ll1n, "all by himself", says he, and quite naturally entrusts his first composition - La Dame de Shalott,
111111 Ille poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson - to this instrument. "It is obviously a very childish piece, whose
1llIllJcI:;ive language and form might make one smile," He is eight and is discovering the mountains of
11,1111'111110, an inexhaustible source of inspiration, His first piano teacher, a certain Mademoiselle Chardol1,
1111111 Glenotlle, Once the war is over, his musical studies will continue in Nantes, where his father is
,."It'd Hiler piano lessons under the guidance of Gontran Arcouet, Robert Lortat and the Misses Veron,
lillill MI)~;sincn will mention little, whereas, on the other hand, he will be unsparing in his praise of his
II ,lllld'illll", Jcllan de Gibon, who, teaching him harmony, enabled him to discover PelleasetMIHis8n(/O,
,II' 01 yow Inlor, Professor Pierre Messiaen is appointed to the Lycee Charlemagne in Paris, anel OliviOI
'11I1Iy 11I:lko~j 111~ way 10 the National Conservatory, where he will be astudent for more 1!1a1110n YO:II::,
111111' 1111 wllllCilCIl fortllirty·seven,
Iii

The piano marked the beginning of this iong itinerary and was "my favourite instrument" Messiaen would
say, but as much as his work as a composer was crowned at the Conservatory (first prizes in counterpoint,
fugue, organ, improvisation and composition). the piano class of Georges Falkenberg did not agree with
him, and he had to settle for a first prize in piano accompaniment - he was, in fact, a formidable sight­
reader, Messiaen frequently commented on that failure: "I practised the piano in part by myself and since,
due to a combination of circumstances, I enrolled in the organ class where I had a prize, I was above all
a good organist before turning to plainchant and improvisation, On the other hand, In the sphere of the
piano, it was certain that I would never have the transcendent virtuosity and the absolutely incredible
technical possibilities of Yvonne Loriod," And Messiaen admitted this interesting bit of information: "I will
add - and it is perhaps this which characterises me - that I play the piano as if I were conducting an
orchestra, that is, by making the piano into a false orchestra with a vast palette of timbres and attacks,"
But, alongside his instrumental practice, alongside his very exhaustive studies on rhythm and harmonic
language (the foundations of which were brought together, as of 1942, in Technique de mon langage
musica~, alongside his earliest ornithological research that would nourish all his work, it was a very
extensive musical culture that fortified his experiments and led him, in a way that was often rather
unorthodox, through the busy or less-busy paths of his art, A few names punctuate his plano heritage: "I
very much like Rameau and his harpsichord pieces, for the harpsichord is the ancestor of the piano, I also
like Domenico Scarlatti for the same reason, Finally, I adore Chopin, the Ballades as well as the Preludes
and Etudes, the Scherzos as well as the Barcarolle, Berceuse and "Funeral" Sonata: I love all of Chopin,
who is the greatest musician of the piano, He discovered the most extraordinary combinations, runs and
fingerings, I love Chopin as a composer-pianist and also as a colourist for, in my opinion, he was a VDI V
great colourisl. Simply because he only wrote for the piano, should he be put in a little box?"
The other names that one might expect are rarely mentioned: Schubert, Uszt, Brahms", And altholl(lll
Beethoven fascinated him, it was his genius of construction more than his approach to the piano, 'I II{]II
comes the (0" century, and Debussy hovers in the firmament, with, at his side, Maurice Ravel for "cOililhl
pieces", Incluc1ing Gaspard de la nuit, "certainly a masterpiece", More unusual: "A work that played a hill/t'
role in my knowled!le of the piano, that I admire intensely and which, for me, represents perhapi: tilt'
masterpiece 01 plano writing: Albeniz's Iberia, which I discovered around the age of nineteenll havo Olilill
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played and replayed the twelve pieces contained in its four books (especially Almeria, EI Polo and
LavapieSj", without attaining perfection, for they are frightfully difficult: i will never succeed in playing
them like Yvonne Loriod,"
It was with Yvonne Loriod, his harmony student in 1942, his wife in 1960, that Olivier Messiaen gave the
first performance of Visions de I'Amen, for two pianos, on 10 May 1943; it was Yvonne Loriod who
premiered the Vingt Regards sur I'Enfant Jesus, Catalogue d'oiseaux and, later, Fauvette des Jardins and
the Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux, it was for Yvonne Loriod that, in most of his works, Messiaen placed the
piano at the centre of his instrumental forces, without ever using the specific term "concerto" (this
concerto, whose history he considered finished" ,),
l1ameau, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Albeniz", We will notice that these names confirm the choices that
Olivier Messiaen would later propose to the students in his course in analysis; there he would add
:;chumann (8" Novelettft), Webern (Variations, Op.21), Bartok ("Out of doors') and Jolivet (Mana), without
nnglccting Beethoven (Whose thirty-two sonatas he claimed to have analysed in class) and, above all, the
IUlIg series of Mozart piano concertos that he always considered highpoints in the history of music. In the
cllilpler on piano works, he also explained to his students some of his own compositions and, beginning
III Ihe Hl50/51 season, he did not hesitate to comment on Pierre Boulez's 2" Sonata, the ink of which
Wd:; Ilitrely dry. Even better, on two occasions (1956/57 and 1964/65), the analysis of piano works was
1111 1 ;;oln subject of the year,
1,,11111': III, Chopin and Debussy: for Messiaen the composer, these were landmarks for a relation more than
1'lIly plJlcoptible influences; and even the Preludes of 1928, whose titles are so reminiscent of Debussy
NII/I,'; !Jllllnipables du reve, Un reflet dans Ie vent.. .), these Preludes, with their seemingly
11I11",':lnnl~I" atmosphere, already distinctly foreshadow one of the characteristics of Messiaen's
lilli, ::ounc! colour. Thus, as of his twentieth year, Messiaen, who always explained in great !Ietail
IW 1I010lllS and even chords of colours when listening to or reading scores, composed "coloured
111I"iO colours, which he knows, even though he deplores it, may be foreign to till! listener, alO
d hy Mo::sioCIl with the greatest precision. For La colombe, first of the eight Preludes, is "OrallfjO,
I Itli vllIllJl"; itS 101 Chant (I'extase dans un paysage triste, it is "grey, mallve, Pnlssian hiIlO, 101 Ihu
IIl'l

••••••••JI

beginning and the end; the middle is diamond-like, silvery". In these same Preludes, Messiaen
implements his first rhythmic conquests and, as Michele Reverdy quite accurately points out in L'muvre
pour piano d'Dlivier Messiaen (1978), "these eight pieces also prove that, with a surprising maturity,
Olivier Messiaen called into question the traditional language - which had still been taught to him at the
Conservatory! - and that he was already interested in Hindu rhythms - non-retrogradable rhythms in
Instants defunts, divisions or augmentations in La colombe, added values (Instants defuntSj, and irrational
bars (Cloches d'angoisse)." Already, too, in the eight Preludes, we note the exploration of the piano's
extreme registers, the contrary motions with the crossing of the two hands and percussion effects.
The Preludes and Vingt Regards sur I'Enfant-Jesus were written fifteen years apart, a long period of
intense activity in the course of which Messiaen composed two song cycles (Poemes pour Mi and Chants
de Terre et de Cie~, La Nativite du Seigneur and Les Corps glorieuxfor organ, the famous Quartet for the
End of Time, whose composition and first performance (with Olivier Messiaen playing a makeshift piano)
in aprison camp have been abundantly related, as well as the 7i'ois petites liturgies de la Presence Divine,
of which one has trouble today imagining the lack of understanding and even insults that accompanied
the first performance. For two pianos, there were the aforementioned Visions de l'Amen of 1943; for solo
piano, only a few minutes of music: the Fantaisie burlesque in 1932 ("burlesque" since, according to
Harry Halbreich, Messiaen wanted to respond to his comrades who found him "too serious, too
contemplative" ... ), the Piece pour Ie tombeau de Paul Dukas (in homage to his master, composer 01
Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, an opera he greatly admired) and the little three-minute Rondeau, written fOI il
piano competition at the Conservatory. But Messiaen was going to make up for that with the Vil/I/I
Regards that lasts more than two hours and cover 177 pages of scoreI
Tflll Vingt Regards, or the quintessence of Messiaen's thinking and language. He himself analyserl III

lonmh the symbolism of each piece, the whole consisting of four cyclical themes that circulnlll
IIl1uugllout: the themes of God, mystical love, the Star and the Cross, the theme of accords. Ami, II',
fllwnys, colours; for the theme of accords, Messiaen spoke of a "grey-steel blue run through withlorl IllIrI
111111111 ornngc, a violet· mauve spotted with leather brown and encircled with mauvish purple" ...1I11I1 dll
1I111111ylllllilc lolincments authorised by the study, amongst other elements, of the Greek metric ~;y:,I"111
11111111111 r/lir,;i 11I11I$1rom India Alld birdsong (the blackbird and the garden warbler in the Rogald (111111

sur Ie Fils, the song thrush, the nightingale, the blackbird, the garden warbler, the skylark and, Messiaen
specifies, "a choir of all sorts of birds together" in the Regard des hauteurs, etc.).
Olivier Messiaen was never a "miniaturist"; he proves that here and will confirm it with that imposing
monument, the Turangalila-Symphonie - premiered in the United States by Leonard Bernstein, with
Yvonne Loriod playing the important solo piano part - four years after the Vingl Regards. But, in the
sphere of the vast piano cycles, Messiaen was not through with surprising, if not frightening, the musical
world. The next step, fourteen years later: the 13 pieces of the Catalogue d'oiseaux (two and three­
quarters hours of music!). Meanwhile, a strange digression revealed that, at the turn of the Fifties, Olivier
Messiaen was not insensible to the highly sophisticated investigations of his disciples Who, as prospective
11eirs of the Second Viennese School, strove to extend the principles of Schoenberg's twolve-tone system
to all parameters (pitches, durations, dynamics, attacks, etc.) of musical composition. It was in this
perspective that two new piano works were analysed: the brief Canteyodjaya of 1040 alld, even more so,
1111: Qualre Etudes de rythme of 1950, and most especially, the second of the four pieces, the Mode de
vllinurs et d'intensites that made so much ink flow at the time that the avant-garde, gathered at the
':IIITllller school in Darmstadt, set to dissecting, and of which Messiaen then sought to minimise the role:
"I was very annoyed," he confided much later to me, "with the absolutely disproportiollate importance that
was cGcorded to a little work that consists of only three pages and which is callen Mode de valeurs et
1I'/IIIOIISi18s, on the pretext that it was at the origin of the serial break-up in the area of attacks, durations,
dYllillllics and timbres, in short, all musical parameters. This music was perhaps propllotic, historically
1I111'11I1iIIll, hut, musically, it's nothing at all. .. "
"11" "IIIII!! Catalogue d'oiseaux, here, from 1951 to 1956, Le Merle nair for flute and piano, Revei/ des
1',/lI~ lor piano and orchestra (Yet another concerto that dares not say its name ...) and Oiseaux
1//11/11':: lor piano and instrumental ensemble, an homage to those !lird songs from India, China,
lilV!,I;1 1111[1 tile two Americas, which Messiaen had not necessarily collected IIims81f (this great expert
Irndlllllyllll1ls and intrepid traveller never went to India!) but had scrupUlously studied.
~~"!i!;IIII)ll marked his formidable ornithological itinerary, unique in tile entire history of western

by 1lIlllflill(1 ll)gether bird songs from the French provinces, specifying that "each soloist is

I "1111111 OWII Ilahitat, surrounded by its landscape and the songs of other birds that are fond of

I"'I

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191

the same region". It is surely not by chance that the first guest of the Catalogue is the Chocard des Alpes
(Alpine Chough), an evocation of Dauphine, La Meije and its three glaciers, superb landscapes
contemplated every summer and consolation for this city-dweller by obligation, who often repeated how
much he detested Paris (with the exception of the stained-glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle) and other
great capitals. Messiaen was faithful to his programme: here, he did not treat birdsong as musical
material but, beyond a limited naturalism, he strove to faithfully reproduce, with the sonorities offered him'
by a keyboard, the song of the famous bird, the songs mixed with birds heard in a given environment, at
a given time of day, with a predilection for sunrise and sunset. At the centre, the flamboyant Rousserolle
effarvatte (Reed Warbler), exceptionally developed and followed scrupulously: "The whole piece is a great
curved movement," says the composer, "from midnight ­ 3 a.m., to midnight ­ 3 a.m., the events from
the afternoon to night repeating in reverse order the events from night to morning."
But a question arises, as for the colours: does the presence of the birds impose itself on the city listener
who sees pigeons in the streets but does not know what a birdsong is? Olivier Messiaen's response: "If
he knows birds in general, it must impose itself. If he doesn't know them, he will take pleasure in the pure
music, and, well, perhaps that won't be so bad." That is what is called great tolerance. Or great lucidity.
We are in 1959, and the Domaine Musical, the concert series created by Pierre Boulez five years earlier,
is presenting, on 15 April, the premiere of Catalogue d'oiseaux. For more than thirty years (eight of those
being devoted to his opera, Saint Fram,ois), Messiaen, ever faithful to his ornithological universe, would
continue to compose but, in the long run, fairly little for piano. Other than a large-scale Fauvette des
Jardins in 1970, a new tribute to Dauphine, an evocation of Lake Laffrey and the fields of Petichet thai
Messiaen was able to observe every summer, this Fauvette des Jardins in which, Messiaen tells us, "YOII
will find my greatest formal innovation: there, rather than referring to an ancient or classical mould, 01
i:van to some mould that I would have invented, I sought to reproduce, in a condensed form, the livinq
passage of the hours of day and night." Accompanied by a few other "birds pieces", the Fauvette rll'.'1
.Ialliins could have become the starting point for a second Catalogue; but all those who frequenlllil
Mn:;:;iHi:1I at that time know that, even though this secret, discrete man did not like to say so explici1ly, il
Wilt; IllO orcl1estra, in its most varied configurations, moreover, that held his full attention. His final piano
wOllI wllliitl also lin ncvoter1 to bird songs, but far more condensed, as indicated by its title: Pm/II',',
1,'11/111::::0:; t/'IJiSiI!lIlX ("I iltle Flir<1 Sketches"), six pieces divided up between the robin (three times), 1111'
1';1

blackbird, the song thrush and the skylark. "Very elaborate piano writing", said Olivier Messiaen. The
work, composed in 1985, is dedicated to Yvonne Loriod.
The journey is over. There remain the monument and the permanence of a style that is identifiable by its
harmonic colours, rhythmic innovations and, of course, its piano specificities: broken lines and runs in
contrary motion, the simultaneous use of extreme registers, permanent control of dynamics, resonance,
clusters and percussion effects. There also remains the heritage or, if you prefer, the task entrusted to his
interpreters. Starting in 1967, Messiaen thought about this when, responding to my request, he agreed
to lend his name to a piano competition, set up its programme (alongside the Regards and other bird
songs, there was Debussy and, on a regular basis, Gaspard de la nuit... J, and be president of the jury.
Due to lack of time, the competition was interrupted when Messiaen set about composing Saint Franr;ois,
but resumed in December 2000, in the framework of the International Competitions of the City of Paris.
In 1967, playing Messiaen constituted astrange event. It took courage and daring to tackle scores of such

weat novelty and technical nature, reputed to be "unplayable". But the "novelty" and "technical nature"
were inscribed within an admirably structured universe, and the diffiCUlties, mental and digital alike, have
hecn surmounted, as was previously the case with Chopin and Debussy ..
Claude Samuel
(Translation: John Tyler Tuffle)

I') I

Huit Preludes (1928-29)
(Eight Preludes)

VII. Plainte calme (Quiet lament): velvety grey, mauve and green glints.

For Mademoiselle Henriette Roget
I was twenty at the time, I had not yet embarked upon the rhythmic research that would transform my
life, I passionately loved birds without yet knowing how to write down their songs, But I was already a
musician of sound-colour, By means of harmonic modes, transposable only a certain number of times and
drawing their particular colours from this fact, I had succeeded in opposing colour discs, intertwining
rainbows and finding "complementary colours" in music, The titles of the Preludes conceal colour studies,
And the sad story indicated by the 6- Prelude, "Bells of anguish and tears of farewell", is shrouded in
sumptuous violet, orange and purple draperies,
Afew details on the colours of each Prelude:
I. La colombe (The dove): orange, with violet veins,
II. Chant d'extase dans un paysage triste (Song of ecstasy in asad landscape): grey, mauve, Prussian
blue, for the beginning and end; the middle is diamond-like, silvery,
III. le nombre leger (The light number): orange, with violet veins,

VIII, Un reflet dans Ie vent (A reflection in the wind): the little tempest with which the piece begins and
ends alternates orange with green veins and small black spots; the central development is more
luminous; the quite melodic second theme, wrapped in sinuous arpeggios, is blue-orange for the first
presentation, green-orange for the second,
Dominant colours of the whole work: violet, orange, purple.

Fantaisie burlesque (1932)
Ihis title is surprising. There exists very little truly comic music, and my music is not at all humorous, In
ID32, myoid classmates from Paul Dukas's composition class found me too serious, too contemplative:
III Iheir opinion, I didn't know how to laugh. I wanted to prove the contrary to them., . and didn't succeed.
1IIIIIis overly traditional A-B-A form, the first and third parts are meant to be comical (without succeeding).
1III'IIIiddie portion is of better quality: here one finds more things that foreshadow the colours of chords
1II1111ythms of my later works, There is notably a polymodal passage, superposing the 3" mode on the
1110(11\ then inversely, the 2"" mode on the 3", with a four-quaver rhythm (the third being dotted), which
I' 1IIIIIollqllly prophetic,

IV. Instants defunts (Instants dead and gone): velvety grey, mauve and green glints.
V. les sons impalpables du reve (The impalpable sounds of dreaming): polymodal, superposil1l1 II
Iillin-orange molie in ostinato and cascades of chords on a violet-purple mode treated in a broll/I'i1
Iim!Jre; notice the piano writing: triples notes, runs in chords, canon in contrary motion, crossed IlilllIl',
Vlll iOlls staccatos, bronzed loure, effects of precious stones.
VI. Cloches d'angoisse et larmes d'adieu (Bells of anguish and tears of farewell): the bells 1:11111111111
ql 1111 111110:: 01 1I10clos; tho "houm" (resultant bass), and all the higher harmonics of bells, lo:;ulvl' III
1111111111111:: Vlllllilloll::; 1I1e farewell is pllrple, orange, violet.
1'1

Piece pour Ie tombeau de Paul Dukas (1935)
Illy IOil01101, Paul Dukas, the brilliant composer of Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, died. A few mon111:;
ii" 1111, IIUluy Prllllieres, director of La Revue musicale, commissioned me to write a short plano
hi', Iilllllii/lno, lie madn the same request to several former students of Paul Dukn::. 1110
111111 Vdll,llJ:, ploces fOlmed a trihute t.o the memory of our master and appearocl in 1/lIII'V//('
01"1 1111'111111" IIIIIJiIO!lIl do Palll Dllkas". My piece is quite simple: it is a 1110(10 :1111 II:: 111:,1
1,,1 1

transposition, whose orange, white and gold lighting perpetually falls on a long dominant seventh. It is
static, solemn and bald, like a huge block of stone.

Rondeau (1943)
This little piece was commissioned in 1943 by Claude Delvincourt (then director of the Paris
Conservatory), for that year's piano competition. The students were not supposed to be familiar with it
until four days before the competition, and the conditions of the commission ensued from that state of
things: the piece had to be short, somewhat easy, written and printed qUickly and in the most complete
secrecy. All that was respected. The piece is a true rondo: not rondo-sonata form as with the Classical
composers but an alternation of refrains and couplets, as in Rameau, Couperin and French popular songs.
It is laid out as follows: refrain-eouplet-refrain-Iengthened couplet-short coda on the refrain.

Visions de l'Amen (1943)
"Amen" has four different meanings:
1) iet there be ... 1the creative act.
?) I submit, I accept. Thy will be done!
:1) 1M wish, the desire, that it be, that you give yourself to me and I to you!
4) t/18t is, all is fixed for eternity, consummated in Paradise.
Ily inclll(linU the lives of the creatures that say "Amen" by virtue of their very existence, I have 1111'11 III
OXplOSS tile plenitude and great variety of the Amen in seven musical visions.
I. Amon of the Creation
(11111111, 101111101 "(loci said: Let there be light! And there was light!" (Genesis).
1'loIllIlllIn:111 1:1111111110 doulJle rhyl.lllTlic pndal in non-retrogradable rhythms. Piano II expresso:: 1111 1 1111'111'
III

of Creation, the main theme of the work overall. The entire piece is a crescendo. It starts in absolute
pianissimo, in the mystery of that primal nebula that already contains the potential of light. All the bells
vibrate in this light - light and consequently Life.
II. Amen of the Stars, of the ringed planet
AWild, brutal dance. The stars, the suns and Saturn, the planet with Ihe multicoloured ring are spinning
Violently. "God calls them and they say: "Amen, here we are!'" (Book of Baruch).

!'iano II sets out the theme of the planets' dance, a theme based on five notes that form the principal

lIIatter of the piece. First development: over a whirling polymodal figure on piano I, piano II varies the
Illythm and, through abrupt leaps, changes the register of the first five notes of the theme. Second
Iluvelopment: the head of the theme, by elimination, contrary and original movement. Athird development
II, mlperposed: on piano I: the head of the theme in a rhythmic pedal; on piano II: the head of the theme
wllil changes of register. Then a varied repeat of the planets' dance. All these intermingled movements
(IInjllre up the life of the planets and the astonishing rainbow that colours Saturn's revolving ring.
III. Amen of Jesus' Agony
II ,III; suffers and weeps. "0 my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will
IIl1ne:." (Gospel of Saint Matthew).
III oil wplS, thy will be done, Amen. - The form is that of a Greek triad: Strophe, Antistrophe, Epode.
Il1pllll: .Jesus is alone in the garden on the Mount of Olives, confronting his agony. Three musical figures:
1111: Cllrse of the Father upon the sins of the world that Jesus represents at this moment;
I ',11111 II ! 1\ rhythmic, expressive group: "anacrusis - accent - ending";
1111'0111 londing lament on 4 notes in various rhythms.
IlIpllll 1110 same music as for the strophe, extended, with the addition of low rhythmic pedals of
1111 1.1111 lillII sonorities.
"'I1III;U 01 Ihe theme of Creation (the suffering of Christ produces grace and creates the new
111 nil pilll:;O, interrupted by a few pulsations, evokes the suffering of the present momen1:
11111 ',lltlllllll!), conveyed to a certain extent through the sweating of blood.

n"hmll
I,

',1111111(1110 IInclerstood in its Iligllest spiritual meaning. This is what the angel cnllollllill
Mdllill 110::11 0". IIwe flfC two themes of clesire. Tho first, slow, eCS1ntic, Ille YO:llnlr III "I

1111"

IiI

deep tenderness: already the tranquil scent of Paradise. The second is much more vehement; the soul is
drawn by a terrible love that reaches a paroxysm of thirst. These two feelings alternate. In the Coda, both
main voices seem to blend into each other, and there is nothing left save the harmonious silence of the
heavens...
V. Amen of the Angels, the saints, of bird-song
Song of the saints' purity: Amen. Jubilant vocalise of the birds: Amen. "The angels bow down before the
throne: Amen." (Apocalypse of Saint John).
First the song of the Angels and the Saints, unadorned, in all purity; then a "central section" with birdsong, giving rise to more brilliant piano textures.
Some of my best singers: the blackbird, the chaffinch, the blackcap, are stylised, idealised, blended with
the thousand sounds of nature in aturbulent and smiling mixture. Varied repeat of the song of the Angels
and the Saints, with a canon of non-retrogradable rhythms, in three layers. A short coda on the birds.
VI. Amen of Judgment
Three glacial notes like a bell of doom. Verily, I say unto you, Amen. "Cursed ones, depart hence!" (Gospel
of Saint Matthew). A deliberately harsh and short piece.
VII. Amen of Consummation
Consummation, Paradise. The life of the bodies in glory, in apeal of light. "From brightness to brightness,"
(Book of Proverbs). Amen.
Piano II repeats the theme of Creation, drawing from it a long chorale of glory. Piano I envelops piano II
(extreme low and extreme high registers at the same time) with an unending peal of chords and brilli:1I II,
~rarkling rhythms, in ever closer rhythmic canon: sapphire, emerald, topaz, hyacinth, amethyst, SUIII, 1111'
wllol!~ rainbow of precious stones of the Apocalypse that ring out, clash, dance, colour and perfllllill 1111 1
Iillll\ of Ufe.

Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus (1944)
(Twenty Glances at the Infant Jesus)
Contemplation of the Child-God of the crib and the Glances which fallon Him: from the inexpressible Glance
of god the Father to the multiple Glance of the Church of Joy, through the tender Glance of the Virgin, then
the Angels, the Magi and the immaterial or symbolic creatures (rime, The Heights, Silence, the Star, the
Cross),
Jlle Star and the Cross have the same theme (rheme de l'Eloile et de la Croix) because one opens and the
Illher closes the earthly life of Jesus. The theme of God (rheme de Dieu) is found, naturally, in the Glaces of
1111' I ather, the Son, and the Spirit of Joy, in "By Him was everything made", in "The Kiss of the Child-Jesus";
I:, present in "The Virgin's first Communion" (she was carrying Jesus); it is glorified in "The Church of Love",
lJif'h is the Body of Christ. This is without speaking of the songs of the birds, bells, spirals, stalactites,
11,lxies, photons, and the texts of Don Columba Marmion, St. Thomas, St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of
II'IIX, the Gospels and the Missal which have influenced me. Atheme of chords (rheme d'accords) flows
1I110() piece to another, broken or focussed in a rainbow; notice also rhythmic canons, polytonalities, non­
III: ;:;iV() rllythms amplified in both ways, values progressively accelerated or slowed down, asymmetrical
l'dlll:loll, cllanges in tone quality, etc. The piano writing is very carefully thought out: inverted arpeggios,
III
p,l!:sages of variation. Don Columba Marmion (Christ in His Mysteries) and after him Maurice Toesca
IWI !Ive Glances) have spoken of the glances of the shepherds, the angels, the Virgin, the Heavenly
'" 'I I IJ:IVO taken the same idea and in treating its in a somewhat different fashion have added 16
I
MIll t: 1I1an in any of my previous works I have sought here a language of mystic love, both varied,
11111 It'llllol. sometimes brutal, in multi-colored arrangements,

III e1u Pore (Glance of the Father)
1'1 111111 is Ilasen on the Theme of God. And God said: "This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well

(T'ranslalion: JRlOfllV /1/,1/"

1'110110 (CI,lIlce at Ule Star)

,1.11 ,IIIIIIIJ() ClOSS. Tile descent of Grace - the Star, surmounted by tile Cross, Sllil10s 011 all

I'Y!

III. l'Echange (The Exchange)

Descending in a column, rising in a spiral: the frightening human - Divine barter, God made man to make

men gods", God is the passage in alternate thirds; that which does not move, that which is very little,

Mankind is the other fragments which grow and grow and become enormous, according to process which

I call asymmetrical growth,

IV. Regard de la Vierge (Glance of the Virgin)

Innocence and tenderness, The woman of Purity, a woman of Magnificat, the Virgin looks at her Child, I

wanted to express purity in music; It must have a certain strength, and especially much innocence, much

childish tenderness,

I

V. Regard du Fils sur Ie Fils (Glance of the Son at the Son)

Mystery, raise of lights in the night - refraction of joy, the birds of silence - the Person of the Word in a

human nature - union of the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ.

VI. Par Lui tout a ete fait (By Him was everything made)

Amplitude of space and time; galaxies, photon, spirals, tender bolts, by Him (the Word) was everything

made: in a moment, creation reveals to us the luminous shadow of His voice, The Theme of God,

fortissimo: the victorious Presence, the Faith of God behind the flame and the maelstrom,

VII. Regard de la Croix (Glance of the Cross)

Theme of the Star and the Cross, The Cross said to Him: "You will be a priest in My arms,"

VIII. Regard des Hauteurs (Glance of the Heights)

Glory ill the Heights", The heights descend to the Crib like the song of the lark, Songs of the hilil::,
niohiingale, blackbird, warbler, goldfinch, but especially the lark,
IX. Rogard du Temps (Glance of Time)

My::IIIlY III 1110 oxlont ofTimo, Time sees born in itself the One Who is Eternal. A short thomo, Illqlll

',1101111111,1111 Iho O(JO ~llnpe(lllr.ad~ of Chirico, Rhythmic canon,

'"

X. Regard de l'Esprit de joie (Glance of the Spirit of Joy)

Violent dance, wild tone of the horns, rapture of the Holy Spirits, 1have always been struck by the fact

that God is happy, and that unutterable and the perpetual joy lives in the Soul of Christ. Joy which for me

is extasy, and intoxicant in the most extravagant sense of the word,

XI. Premiere Communion de la Vierge (The Virgin's first Communion)

Atableau in which the Virgin is shown on her knees, withdrawn within herself - a luminous halo hovers

liver her Womb, Her eyes closed, she adores the Fruit hidden within her, This incident takes place between

Ihe Annunciation and the Nativity: it is the first and the greatest of all Communions", My God, My Son,

My Magnificat! - My Unspoken Love,

XII. La Parole toute-puissante (The AII-Powertul Word)

Illis Child is the Word who sustains all things with the strength of his voice,

XIII. Noel (Christmas)

lillian - the bells of Christmas speak with us the sweet names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph",

I

lIIV. Regard des Anges (Glance of the Angels)
IIlIlIno, throbbing; powertul blast from the trombones; Your servitors are tongues of fire",
1I111111ho song of the birds who fly down from the blue - and the wonder of the angels grows: - for it
I Ilfll 10 1I10m that God is united, but to the human race,
1111

V I II Balser de l'Enfant-Jesus (The Kiss of the Child-Jesus)
If II ClIllllllllllion the Child-Jesus sleeps close by our door; then He opens the garden gate and comes
I I 10111 ill light, to embrace us, The Theme of God in a lullaby, Sleep - the garden - the Arms
tr",tlloll ill lovo - the kiss - the shadow of the kiss, I was inspired by a drawing which showed tl10
I, 'Wi IOliVillf!1110 arms of His Mother to embrace little Theresa, This is all symbolic of Communion,
lovo
ull dun Ilrophetes, des bergers et des mages (Glance of the Prophets, the Shepherds allfllhc MillIl)
Ii 1,1111 IIIIIIS nnd oboes. vast and nasal harmony,
ilil

XVII. Regard du silence (Glance of Silence)

Silence in the hand, a topsy-turvey rainbow... every silence of the Crib reveals music and colours which are

the mysteries of Jesus Christ. Polytonality, rhythmic canon formed with dotted notes.

XVIII. Regard de I'Dnction terrible (Glance of the Blessing)

The Word takes on a definite human nature; selection of the flesh of Jesus by God the Father. An old

tapestry shows the Word of God in battle... we see only two hands on the hilt of the sword which they

brandish amid the flashing lightening. This image influenced me.

XIX. Je dors, mais man creur veille (I sleep, but my heart keeps watch)

Poem of love, dialogue of mystic love. Silences playa major role here. It is not the bow of an angel which

smiles... it is the sleeping Jesus who loves us on his Holy Day (Sunday) and who gives us forgetfulness...

XX. Regard de l'Eglise d'amour (Glance of the Church of Love)

Grace makes us love God as God loves us; after the columns, of night, the spirals of anguish, here are the

bells, glory and the kiss of love... all the passion of our arms around the Invisible... Three appearances of

the Theme of God, separated by asymmetrical extensions.

Canteyodjaya (1949)
III Iring the summer of 1949, I was at Tanglewood (Massachusetts), site of the Berkshire Music Centol,

wllero Serge Koussevitzky had invited me to teach composition and musical rhythm. I had classes evolY

i111011100n and participated in concerts in the evening.

My 1IIUIlIillg8 wore free, and it was during that time of day that Iwrote Canleyodjaya. The work is interestlll!l

111,OVll all fOI its rhythmic experiments. Herein one finds several defti-Ia/as (Hindu rhythms) from ancilllli

11111111: III prllliClllar, Iilkskmrr;a ("peace that descends from Lashmi") and simhavikrama ("the strenan, 011111'

111111" 111111111::0 "1110 sllOngth of Shiva"). Here are again found the chromatic scales of durations: strainlll, by

111" 11I1I1I1i'::::lvllllccoIOlnllon IIf ctllrations- retrograde, by the progressive slowing of durations - Iholw"

illll'l 1111I1'i 111111111 JlllpOIPOSO(1. I inally, in the second third of the work, one hears a moctp. of Chllilllllil',

pitches and intensities, distributed in three levels of tempi, in which each sound has its own duration and
intensity. The piece's unity is ensured by a very brief refrain that returns in various places.

Quatre Etudes de rythme (1949-1950)
(Four Rythmic Studies)
Written in 1949-50, when I was forty. The four Etudes were published separately but should, however,
oIlways be played in the order adopted here. Afew details on the rllythms and colours of each etude:
I. lie de feu 1 (Island of Fire): The piece is dedicated to Papua-New-Guinea, so tile tllemes therefore
IIntaln all the violence of that country's magic organisations.
II. Mode de valeurs et d'intensites (Mode of values and intensities) uses a mode of pitches (36

ollllrls), values (24 durations), attacks (12 types of attack), intensities (7 clynamic levels); the scale of

dillillions is divided into three tempi (corresponding to the high, middle and low registers of the scale of

'"lll1ls): the first tempo using 12 chromatic durations from the demisemiquaver, tile second tempo using

I ' fill fllnatic durations from the semiquaver, the third tempo using 12 chrolmtic ctllrations from the

III.IVI'I (l118se three tempi are played simultaneously); the durations, intensities ancJ altacks are placed on

II '"III1D level as the sounds; the whole mode provides colours of durations and intensities; each sound
1111' ::01llle flame changes duration, attack and intensity, in each region of sound that it occupies; the
11111'11('1101 Ihe register on the quantitative, phonetic and dynamic state of tile sound, and this settling
I Ihll'IIIDlliporal regions, transforming the life of the sounds that cross them along the way, constitute
,IIJlllly of now colour variations.

(Rhythmic neumae): Looking at the various figures of ncumae in plainchant, I

hlli:1 of seeking correspondences, rhythmic equivalencies for them. Playing on the transposition

I' 11111 Illolodic sinuosity indicated by the neumatic sign transforming into a group of durations.

,"III1J1il: Jlouma is provided with a fixed intensity and resonances in sparkling colours, more or less

iI,uk, IIlwnys contrasted.

1I1l10S rythmiques

203

IV. lie de feu 2 (Island of Fire): Again dedicated to Papua-New-Guinea; the main theme, savage and
violent, has the same character as those of the first etude; the variations on this theme alternate with
permutations, always inverted in the same order of reading and superposed by pairs. The piece ends with
a mota perpetuo with crossed hands, in the low register of the keyboard.

2"' verse: an Alpine Chough tours the landscape, flying over the precipices. The same cries and same
flights as in the 1" verse. Epodos: Les tcrins: Cirque de Bonne-Pierre, with its immense rocks, lined up
like giant phantoms, or like all the towers of a supernatural fortress!
II. le loriot (The Golden Oriole) (orio/us orio/us)

Catalogue d'oiseaux (1958)
(Bird Catalog)
(Bird songs from the French provinces. Each soloist is presented in its habitat, surrounded by its
landscape and the songs of other birds that are fond of the same region).
The composition of the First Bird Cataiogue was begun in October 1956 and finished on 1" September
1958. In some cases, the repeated voyages and visits necessary for the notation of the song of every bird
took place well before the composition of the pieces. His indications being extremely precise, the author
was easily able to awaken memories that were a few hours or several years old. The work bears a double
dedication: to his winged models and to his wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod.

Book I
I. le Chocard des Alpes (The Alpine Chough) (coracia gracu/us)

Stanza: the Alps of Dauphine, the Oisans. Climb towards La Meije and its three glaciers.

1" verse: near the Chancel refuge: Puy-Vacher Lake, marvellous mountain landscape, abysses ancl

rrecipices. An Alpine Chough, separated from its group, crosses the precipice, screeching. Gliding flighl,

silollt and majestic, of the Great Royal Eagle, borne by the air currents. Ferocious, throaty cawing,

IllliWling of the Great Crow, lord of the high mountains. Various cries of the Choughs and their acrobatic:

11111111 (:ilclesllps, <.lives, loopings) above the abysses.

Alltlnllilpl1O: bofore Saint-Christophe-en-Oisans, the Saint-Christophe scree: chaos of fallen blocks,

Ildllll':iIlII!llilc:l<s, flcculilulated in (lisorcler by the giants of the mountain.

'"

End of June. Branderaie de Gardepee (Charente), around 5.30 in the morning - Orgeval, arouncl6 a.m.

-les Maremberts (Loir-et-Cher), in the noonday sun. The Oriole, the lovely golden-yellow bird with black

wings, whistles in the oaks. Its slurred, golden song like the laugh of a foreign prince, evokes Africa amJ

Asia or some unknown planet, filled with light and rainbows, filled with Leonardo-da-Vinci smiles. In ttl()

qnrdens, in the woods, other birds: the rapid, decided stanza of the Wren, the confident caress of tile

Hollin, the brio of the Blackbird, the amphimacer of the Redstart with its white brow and black breast, the

IIlcantatory repetitions of the Song Thrush. For a long While, the Garden Warblers untiringly vent their

sweet virtuosity. The Chiffchaff adds its hopping droplets of water. Nonchalant recall, the memory of gold

.11111 rainbows: the sun seems to be the gilded emanation of the Oriole's song

III. le Merle bleu (The Blue Rock Thrush) (montico/a so/itarius)

1111\ Ilionth of June. The Roussillon, the Vermeil Coast. Near Banyuls, Cape l'Abeille, Cape Rederis. Cliff

IIvl'lllllIlg, above the Prussian blue and sapphire blue. The grey of black Swifts, the lapping of water. The

IIl'illllnllds stretch into the sea like crocodiles. In a rocky crevice that echoes, the Blue Rock Thrush sings.

II I!, if different blue than the sea: a purplish, slate blue, a satiny blackish blue. Almost exotic, recalling

1'·IIIIIlI!:n music, its song mingling with the noise of the waves. One also hears the Thecla Crested Lark,

,1111 II/lll1lers about in the sky over the Vineyards and rosemary. The Herring Gulls screech in the distance
1,"'1 11111 se,!. Tho cliffs are terrible. The water comes to die at their base in memory of the Blue Rock
IlIn!,11

II
II '1l11lO! stapazin (The Black-eyed Wheatear) (oenanthe hispanica)
hlllli 11111 Iloussillon, the Vermeil Coast. Above Banyuls: Cape l'Abeille, Cape Rederis. 1lin lod<v
I' 1111111111;11115,11'10 sea, tile terraced vineyards. The leaves of tlie vine are still groOIl. all 11111 ::11111
I(l!,

of the road: a Black-eared Wheatear. It stands, proud and noble, on the stones, in its fine costume of
orange silk and black velvet, a black upside-down "T" dividing the white of its tail, a dark black mask
covering the top of its eye, its cheeks and throat. One would say a great Spanish grandee on his way to
a masked ball. Its stanza is strong, brusque, brief. Not far, in the vine, the Bunting ecstatically tosses out
its repeated flute-like notes with a melancholy ending. Here is the garrigue: a tangle of low, thorny plants:
gorse, rosemary, rockrose, kermes oak. In the garrigue: the exquisite song of the invisible Spectacled
Warbler. Flying high and far over the sea, one hears the cruel screaming of Herring Gulls, their dry,
hammered sniggering. A trio of large Crows flies over the rocks of the cliffs with powerful, deep cawing.
The bells of a little Goldfinch tinkle ..
5 in the morning. The red and gold disc of the sun rises from the sea into the sky. At the summit of the
disc, the goiden crown increases, until the moment when the sun is entirely golden yellow. It climbs
higher. A luminous band forms on the sea. 9 in the morning. In the light and heat, other voices follow:
batteries on two flute-like notes of the Orphean Warbler, hidden in the cork-oaks-broken crystal of the
Corn Bunting, rather strange gaiety of the Wark Bunting, volubility of the Melodious Warbler-song - in
flight, exultant, crackling, mixed with sharp cries of the Thecla Crested Lark. Several Black-eared
Wheatears answer each other. 9 in the evening. Surrounded by blood and gold, the sun descends behind
the mountains. The Monts Alberes are covered with fire. The sea darkens. The sky goes from red to
orange, then fills with a violet of dreams ... Final stanzas of the Spectacled Warbler. Three notes from the
Bunting in the night-covered vine. Another Black-eared Wheatear, far from the road. The dry percussion
of a Herring Gull, very far over the black sea. Silence ... 10 in the evening. Total night. Memory of thr.
Spectacled Warbler...

Book III

V. La Chouette hulotte (The Tawny Owl) (strix aluco)

l'hlll1ane spotted with brown and rust, enormous facial discs, asolemn expression, stamped with myslOlY,

Wl::llolll (lnd 1I1e supernatural. Even more than its aspect, the voice of this night bird provokes tell 01 I

IIIIVO olhll\ II<1ill<l ii, ill tlie middle of the night, around 2 in the morning, in the woods of Orgeval, of S:lhll

1111011111111111 I nyo, Oil till; road from Petichet to Cholonge (Isere). Shadows, fear, a heart beating too 1.11,1,

1IIIIwhllllllili Yillphill olille I iltle Owl, cries of IIIe L.ollg·eared Owl: and here is the call of the lawllY

sometimes lugubrious and distressing, sometimes vague and disturbing (with a strange trembling),
sometimes screamed in horror like the cry of a murdered child!. ... Silence. More distant hootillg, seeming
like a bell from another world...
VI. l'Alouette Lulu (The Woodlark) (Iul/ula arborea)

From the Grand-Bois Pass to Saint-Sauveur-en-Rue, in Forez, Apinewood to the right of the roa<l, pasture

to the left, From high in the sky, in the darkness, the Woodlark sings its two notes in pairs: liquid

descending chromatic series, Hidden in a bush, a clearing, a Nightingale answers. Contrast betweell the

mordant tremolos of the Nightingale, and this mysterious voice from above. The Wood lark approaches,

invisible, goes off again. The trees and fields are black and calm. It is midnight...

Book IV
VII. La Rousserolle effarvatte (The Reed Warbler) (acrocophalus scirpaceus)
Ihe whoie piece is a great curved movement, from midnight - 3 in the morning, at midnight - 3 in the
11I01lling, the events from afternoon to night repeating, in reverse order, the events from night to morning.
II II; written for the Reed Warbler and, in general, to the glory of the birds of reeds, ponds and marshes­
11111 n few birds and fields that are their neighbours.
,,1I101lI1e, Between saint-Viatre, Nouan-Ie-Fuzelier, Saibris and Marcilly-en-Gault: the ponds of Le Petit and
ii' 111:111<1 Rancy, Les Noues, La Briquerie, Les 3 Croix, gusts of wind, of La Rue Verte, L.es Chapelieres,
III 11111 cluster of old trees, and so many other ponds ... I name them more na'ively: pond of the water lilies,
1'lIllIllIlllin reeds, pond of the irises, etc. Midnight: the music of the ponds and the chorus of frogs. 3 in
II II 1011 lillg: The Reed Warbler, hidden in the reeds, produces a long solo of a scratchy timllre,
1I11111i1IIUll1ISly evoking the xyiophone, the squeaking cork, string pizzicati and the glissando of the harp,
Iii ,1I11101l1ing wild and obstinate in the rhythm that does not exist in reed birds, The night is solemn like
II ;(I1I1II1Ce of atam-tam. 6 in the morning: sunrise, pink, orangey, mauve, over the pond of water lilies,
"I -,lilll/(I$ 01 the Blackbird, chirping of the Red-backed Shrike and the Redstart with its white
III Hhi 1110 Ilioming, yellow irises: raucous double cry of the Pheasant, the whistled gliss3n(IO or
11111111, II III :;Irange, supernatural burst of laughter of the Woodpecker, the Roed Bunting, 1110 CIOffi
111111 IIXqllisilr, Grey Wagtail (so distinguished in its semi-mouminn costlllTiC) acid 3 low ~;(lIln(lr:,
'II

Noon: the Grasshopper Warbler shrills its interminable insect-like noise. 5 in the afternoon, foxglove, the
trilled crescendo in the bulrushes, powerful rhythms, slightly acidic and grating, of the Passerine Warbler.
Dry, flabby croaking of a frog. The Black-headed Gull goes off to hunt. Water lilies. Concert In duo by two
Reed Warblers. 6 in the evening, yellow irises and the Grasshopper Warbler. A Coot (black, white spot on
the forehead) seems to shock stones and blow a pointed little trumpet. The Skylark rises and exults in the
middle of the sky, and the frogs answer it from the pond. AWater Rail, invisible, utters aseries of horrifying
cries - cries of a swine having its throat slit - in a fading wailing, diminuendo. 9 in the evening: sunset,
red, orangey, violet, on the pond of irises. The Bittern howls - the sound of a low horn, a bit terrifying. The
sun is a bloody disc: the pond repeats it-the sun joins its reflection and sinks into the water. The sky is
dark violet... Midnight: night has settled In, always solemn like the resonance of a tam-tam. The
Nightingale begins its mysterious or mordant stanzas. Afrog moves some bones. 3 in the morning again,
a grand solo by the Reed Warbler. And we end with a repeat of the music of the ponds, with the final roar
of the Bittern..

Book V
VIII. L'Alouette calandrelle [fhe Short-toed Lark) (calandrella brachydactyla)
Provence, the month of July: the Short-toed Lark, 2 in the afternoon, Les Baux, the Alpilles; arid rock~:,
broom and cypress. The monotonous percussion of cicadas, the staccato alarm of the Kestrel. EntresSOl1
road: the Crested Lark in two-part counterpoint with the Short-toed Lark. 4 in the afternoon, La CI~1I1
Desert of pebbles, intense light, torrid heat. Alone, the brief little phrase of the Short-toed Lark fills 111/ 1
silence. Towards 6 in the evening, a Field Lark rises into the sky and lets out a jubilant slilli/il
IIrnphimacer of the Quail, memory of the Short-toed Lark...
IX. La Bouscarle (Cetti's Warbler) (cettia cetto
I ilsi (lilYS oillprii. Saint-Brice, La Trache, Bourg-Charente, the banks of the Charente River, 1I10 IJill 11\:. III
1111) CIJiIlOlllon (a small branch of the river). The green water reflects the willows and 1110 110111111
:lill II II lilly, II voice hursts forth with violence in the reeds or brambles: it's the Cetti's, a small Wi 111/11 'I, IIII1
lilllilltllllllllllrllllvlslhio. nle Waterhen cackles. A blue-green arrow sparkles at water level: 11111 Khlllll',III'1
lIo1',~,II!I, willi H IlIw 111011 pltclled cries, and colours the landscape. The river is calm. II's II 111'.111111111
"II

morning of light and shade. The Blackbird Whistles, the Song Thrush adds its rhythmical incantations to
the rippling cascades of the Robin. Articulations and tremolos of the little Wren, a clear, flute-like refrain
from the Blackcap, anapest from the Crested, wreathed attacks (like a harpsichord crossed with a hinge),
distant, lunar notes, incisive traits from the Nightingale. What is that strange noise?
II saw, scythe being sharpened, the scraping of scouring? It's the Corncrake repeating its iambic rhythm
ill the tall grass of the meadow... Here again is the victorious strophe of the Chaffinch and the very shrill
murmuring of the Sand Martin. Ash-blue head, yellow breast like a buttercup, the Wagtail of springtime
::Irides elegantly along the bank. Nuptial flight of the Kingfisher which turns, exposing to the sun its
huautiful colours of forget-me-nots, sapphire and emerald. Asilence... Brutal punctuation of the morning:
1110 Cetti's Warbler explodes one final time!

Dook VI
10 Merle de roche (The Rock Thrush) (monticola saxatilis)
HIIIIIII of May. Herault. The Cirque de Moureze; chaos of dolomite, rocks in fantastic shapes. Night,
II 111111 rlilJlll. Dominating all the other rocks, an immense stone hand! Towarcls the em1 of the night, the
I "111' Owl produces its powerful, low hooting-its female respond with muffle(l percussiolls: sinister hilarity
1111.1' Illvlllrn is mistaken for frightened heartbeats. Early dawn: varied cries of Jackdaws. fhen the Black
1'1.111 IlCgins its monotonous. song: in the middle of the strophe, a noise evokillg shaken pearls,
1111111,,,1 pilper, a silken rustling. The rocks are terrifying: prehistoric StOIiO '.HIimals, Stegosaurus,
"I.. II~;, seem to keep watch - a group la Max Ernst: hooded stone phalitolTls lIansporting a dead
11111 wlimn hair trails on the ground ... Perched on a sharp point, a Rock Thrustl l How beautiful it is!
1""1, IIllllilil, black wings. bright orangey breast. It sings during the daylight flOurs, in heat and light:
1I11111111111h1Q, 5 in the afternoon - and its song is luminously orangey, like its plumage1The moments
III' !Jiven rhythm and number in long durations. The Black Redstart resumes its noise. Last cries
I" krliIW:i. Ifle end of dusk: the Eagle Owl hoots, and its voice reverberates in the rocks, bringing
1Ir111 111111. Niqht, moonlight, the gigantic hand is still there, looming above the stone monsters,

a

11',111111. ..

209

Book VII
XI. La Buse variable (The Buuard) (buteo buteo)
Dauphine, the Matheysine, A vast open space of the fieids of Petichet, at the end of Lake Laffrey, at the
foot of the bald mountain of Le Grand Serre, Introduction - Cry of the Buzzard: it approaches, and flies
off. It glides in circles: the planes of the orbit of its flight fill the whole landscape, It slowly descends.
1" Verse. - Chaffinch, Yellow Bunting, Goldfinch. Cry of the Buzzard.
Refrain by the Mistlethrush.
2"' Verse, - The same, plus House Martins.
3"Verse, - For some common prey, six Carrion Crows attack the Buzzard, Deep, ferocious cawing on the
one side, grating tremblings, strange mewings on the other. Aiarm of the Red-backed Shrike, hurried
strophes from the Grey Warbler. Refrain by the Mistlethrush.
Coda - Cry of the Buuard, its flight in circles. It slowly climbs again.
XII. Le Traquet rieur (Black Wheatear) (oenanthe leucura)
Month of May. Beautiful sunny morning, Cape Bear, above Port-Vendres (Roussillon), Rocky clill,
garrigues, sapphire- and Nattier-blue sea, silvery in the sunlight. Joy of the blue sea. Song of the Black
Wheatear. Dialogue between the Blackbird, more caressing, and the Black Wheatear, more ringill!J,
interrupted by the barking of the Herring Gull, the strident cries of the black Swifts, the brief interjectioll::
of the Black-eared Wheatears. Black, white tail with a black design, the Black Wheatear is perched Oil II
rock point, at the base of the cliff, The Spectacled Warbler is getting worked up in the garrigues. A [111:,1
of wind passes over the sea, still sapphire- and Nattier-blue, silvery in the sunlight. Joy of the biLie HIIII
XIII. Le Courlis cendre (The Curlew) (numenius arquata)
1110 Islo of OLiessant (Enez Eusa), in Finistere: at the Pointe de Pern, one can see a large bird, with :lIlIp,,1I
1Illl1llngC, spotted with yellowish-russet, grey and brown, long-legged, with a very long curved bonk III 1111
nllilpo of a sickle or yataghan: the Curlew! Here is its solo: sad, slow tremolos, chromatic ascl1ill:,. Wild
11111:: tHlcI n IrAoically repeated call in glissando. which expresses all the sadness of seascapon AI 1111
"0111101111 I Oilillolill VCIOIl, chollped by the noise of the waves, all the bird cries of the shore: 11I1I1:1I11 11! ill
1111111111I11I:klllllulml GIIII, Ihe resonant rhythms (sounding like hunting horns) of the Herring GIIII, 11111111111
III\I! 1I111lilily III 1110 IloilsllAnk, 1110 repeated flotes of the Turnstone, strident whistlings, 1111111 IIII,III'I!
I"

rumblings of the Oyster Catcher and still other cries: those of the little Ringed Plover, the Common GUll,
the Common Guillemot, the Little Tern and the Caugek Tern. Water stretches as far as the eye can see,
Gradually, the fog and night spread over the sea. Everything is black and fearsome. In !tIC middle of its
jagged rocks, the Le Chreac'h lighthouse makes apowerful, lugubrious bellowing: it's the ClICIrm siren. Still
II few bird cries, and the moaning of the Curlew, repeated and growing more distant... ColeJ, total night,
1110 sound of surf".

Prelude pour piano (1964)
VII parts:
Modere, lourd" (moderato, pesantf!), first theme in the style of a brass band, with lower resonances.
'111:; in unison crotchets triplets, leading to a bird song. Then two L1nisons: in contrary motion in the
1.l1I(ls, fortissimo, crescendo chords, runs in double notes towards the lower register - tam-tam, fff.
pl:al of the first theme, this time with higher resonances, The triplets descend, rather than rise, and
I III illiant run in both hands towards a fortissimo in the middle register, followed by an avalanche of
I' ,11111 (Is in the 2"' mode that rise again, They thicken with the left hand in the extreme low register
III ('/(J8condo-rallentando, The unisons expand into a fan in order to lead to the conclusion in
,,,;/, ilylllJnS in the low register, crowned by bird songs in the extreme upper register.
II II II I Ipl1ant G sharp major, topped by a superb burst of high-pitched harmonics,

Yvonne Loriod
(Translalioo.· John Tyler Tuttle)

II

La Fauvette des Jardins (1970)
(The Garden Warbler)
Between the helmeted wall of the Obiou (in the South) and the spur of Chamechaude (in the North), there
are four lakes - this is Matheysine in Dauphine. At the end of large lake of Laffrey, at the foot of the Grand
Serre mountain (to the East). Here are the fields of Petichet.
Late June, early July. It is still night-time. The last waves of the large lake have just subsided under the
willows. The Grand Serre mountain is there, with its patches of trees at the base of its bald skuil. Around
4 in the morning, the quail unleashes its call in cretic rhythm. The nightingale ends a strophe: faraway,
lunar notes, an abruptly strong and victorious conclusion, long rumblings to the point of running out of
breath. The ash trees watch over the passage to the reeds of the large lake. In the middle of the meadow,
the greyish alders stand side by side with the hazel trees. Then the dawn paints the sky, the trees, the
meadow pink. The large lake also becomes pink. Song of the garden warbler, hidden in the ash trees,
willows and bushes, along the large lake. Two first attempts, then a solo. The little wren throws out fast,
powerful notes, with a trill in the middle of its strophe. The garden warbler sings again, with its limpid
voice, in ever-new runs.
Five o'clock in the morning. The coming of day gives form to the silvery foliage of the alders, sharpens
the smell and colour of the purple mint and the green grass. Ablackbird whistles. The woodpecker laughs
strongly. From the other side of the talus, near Lake Petichet, a skylark rises into the sky, winding iI::
jlll)ilation around a high dominant. The garden warbler begins a new solo: its rapid vocalises, iI::
IlIlflagging virtuosity, the regular flow of its discourse seem to stop time ...
Ilowever, the morning wears on, and here is the threat of astorm. The large lake of Laffrey is dividerl 11110
III Olll I and violet stripes. Two chaffinches answer each other, with variants in their cadet/a. Surirlollly, d
11111011, fJlnling, slightly acid voice arises from the reeds of the large lake, alternating low rhytlllll:: 111111
1111111 plll:llOrl 1:1 ies it is tllp. great reed warbler. But the sun has retumed, and here is another, 1I110XpIH I"il
villi II, IllIlIVIIIIOlISly Oolelon and rich in harmonics. It is a passing golden oriole that has COI11I1 III ".11
1111111111:: 1111111111111111 WOllllOI continues its soli, interrupted from time to time by the husky c:awlllllill

crows, the hard, dry alarms of the shrike flayer, the tremulous cries of the black kito. rhe descellt of tile
enormous mass of the Grand Serre contrasts with the elegant ascent of the swallows of the cllimneys.
The stasis of the bald mountain again contrasts with the mobility of the water's undulations. The garrlen
warbler sings and sings again, untiringly. A new contrast: the flight of the black kite and !tIe sudden calm
of the large lake. The kite climbs and dives, flying in large spirals in the sky, the orbits of its flight getting
IifJhter (the twisting of the tail helping the motion of the wings), until it finally touches the surface of tile
water. The sun gives off light and warmth. These are the finest hours of the afternoon, and the large lake
::preads its blue expanse made up of all the blues: peacock blue, azure, sapphire,
Ille silence is disturbed only by the chaffinches, the little bells of the golden finch, and the naive repeated
of the yellowhammer. The mountain heights are green and golden...
Illwillds evening, the garden warbler begins another solo. The black cap, less virtuoso, has a louder
1I'lInin, with a liquid, flute-like timbre. After this refrain, the voice of the nightingale rises, announcing the
1111:1111. The sky becomes red, orange, violet. The crow and the shrike flayer sound the alarm. Afinal laugh
III 11111 woodpecker. Night is falling ..
1I01i1

flllll'Hlllin evening. In the growing silence, the double call of the tawny owl rings out, wild and terrifying.
I" 1,11 CJe lake is now faintly lit by the moonlight. The silhouettes of the alders are completely black.
I 'IVlllillq plunges into the grandiose shadow of memory.
(;,:IIIU Serre is always there, above the night..,

1111111'

Petites Esquisses d'oiseaux (1985)
(Little Bird Sketches)
I' ,IX vwy sliOit pieces. They are both quite similar and highly different: quite similar in style, tile
I

III Wilidl complexes of sounds evolve with changing colours. Blues, reds, oranges, violets,
'1i,IIII:po:;ed inversions" dominate. The "chords of contracted resonance" and tile "cllords of 1I1()

II

{
"..

chromatic whole" add their most violent or most subtle colours to this. On the other hand, each bird
having its own aesthetic, the melodic and rhythmic motion differs from one piece to the next. The three
pieces devoted to the robin contain rippling descending arpeggios, almost glissandos, followed by slow
notes, and by more refined patterns, the blackbird sings afew sunny, somewhat triumphant strophes. The
song thrush draws attention to itself with its incantatory repetitions. Finally, the skylark, which concludes,
features a crackling volubility, centring on a high dominant, punctuated from time to time by two slow,
powerful notes, the whole corresponding to phases of the bird's flight. The piano writing is quite elaborate.
Written in 1985, the work is dedicated to Yvonne Loriod.

I

Here are the titles of the six pieces:
I. Le Rouge-gorge (The Robin)
II. Le Merle noir (The Blackbird)
III. Le Rouge-gorge (The Robin)
IV. La Grive musicienne (The Song Thrush)
V. Le Rouge-gorge (The Robin)
VI. L'Alouette des champs (The Skylark)