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London Sinfonietta Performs Olivier Messiaen's Chamber Masterpiece 'Quartet for the End of Time' at Kings Place

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Feb 19, 2014 04:33 PM EST

On Friday, February 21, the London Sinfonietta--one of Classicalite's favorite new music ensembles--will perform Olivier Messiaen's chamber masterpiece, Quatuor pour la fin du temps, at Kings Place.

Out of the dark from the U.K. premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas' in vain, all Britons should go experience each of the work's eight, life-affirming movements.

From the opening "Crystal Liturgy" for the full ensemble of clarinet, violin, cello and piano to the final violin and piano duet "Praise to the Immortality of Jesus," regardless of your own religious beliefs (or lack thereof even), Messiaen's work remains compositional skill and aesthetic beauty personified.

Of course, that's probably because of its origin story.

Captured by the German army in June of 1940 and imprisoned at Stalag VIII-A in what is now Poland, Messiaen premiered his quartet at that same P.O.W. camp--outdoors, in the rain, on damaged instruments--on January 15, 1941 to some 400 fellow prisoners.

As a freed man, the composer later recalled, "Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension." 

And John Constable, the Sinfonietta's principal pianist, calls Quartet for the End of Time "the most inspiringly spiritual piece I've ever played." 

More than half a century since its first performance, with entirely new wars raging, Messiaen's opus resonates still across time immemorial.

Get your tickets here.

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TagsLondon Sinfonietta, Olivier Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time, Kings Place