Olivier Messiaen (Hardcover)

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Drawing on a range of sources and fields, the rich life story of this polymathic composer.
This groundbreaking biography offers fresh perspectives on the life, ideas, and music of French twentieth-century composer, organist, and ornithologist Olivier Messiaen. Drawing from previously unexplored sketches and archival material, the book seamlessly combines elements of biography, musicology, theology, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and aesthetics to present a nuanced perspective on Messiaen’s work. Robert Sholl explores the profound impact of Messiaen’s devout Catholicism, which found expression through his work as a church organist, his engagement with birdsong, his interaction with Surrealism, and his profound influence on major musical figures of the latter twentieth century. Unlike previous biographies, this book also considers the perspectives of Messiaen’s contemporaries and students, providing a comprehensive understanding of his life and artistic legacy.

About the Author

Robert Sholl teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and the University of West London. His books include Messiaen in Context. He has performed all of Messiaen’s organ music, recorded improvisations to film on the organ and piano, and given recitals in London and Paris.

Praise For…

"Sholl’s critical biography is enhanced by his skillful use of musical, theological, philosophical and aesthetic details regarding Messiaen’s life and work, and further enriched by the inclusion of previously unexplored material from Messiaen’s archives. After situating the composer in the cultural milieu of the 1930s, Sholl dedicates chapters to essential elements of Messiaen’s multifarious career as composer, teacher, theologian and ornithologist. Writing with clarity and insight, Sholl has provided a readable and engaging contribution to understanding the complicated life and work of one of the twentieth century’s most important figures. Highly recommended."
— Andrew Shenton, professor of music, Boston University

"Sholl's new biography of Messiaen sheds fresh light on the extraordinary originality of his music. Among the wealth of fascinating detail much comes from the composer himself, as well as from his teachers, contemporaries, pupils, and from those who have studied, researched, and performed his music. Sholl's commentaries on the music are acutely perceptive—and as a bonus to this rich feast the photographs are marvelous."
— Peter Hill, emeritus professor of music, University of Sheffield, and coauthor of "Olivier Messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques"

"Sholl’s book, the fruit of many years of research, undoubtedly has a great future. Its panoramic view of Messiaen’s life constitutes a way of discovering Messiaen for those unfamiliar with his work and offers much to music lovers who will find, through his synthesis of material, unpublished information and photos. This book has allowed me to rediscover the Messiaen that I knew, but also to encounter an unknown Messiaen. May everyone have as much pleasure reading this book as I have!"
— Olivier Latry, titular organist of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and professor of organ at the Paris Conservatoire

"Sholl has distilled many years of scholarship and contemplation into a book that is compact yet capacious, brimming with information and insight. The crisp narrative provides vivid descriptions of cultural and intellectual contexts, including a breathtaking panoply of influences, both his own mentors as well as those he mentored. Sholl’s trademark intertextual methodology seamlessly interweaves materials drawn from a broad horizon of sources, including history, musicology, literature, visual arts, history, philosophy, theology, and psychoanalysis. This brilliant achievement synthesizes scholarship from yesterday and up to the present moment. It is now the point of departure for any future adventures into Messiaen’s idiosyncratic universe."
— Stephen Schloesser, professor of history, Loyola University Chicago
Product Details
ISBN: 9781789148657
ISBN-10: 1789148650
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: July 18th, 2024
Pages: 208
Language: English