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Olivier Messiaen

December 10, 1908 - April 27, 1992
born in Avignon, France, composed during the Modern period
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist, teacher, and ornithologist whose music is distinguished by his deep devotion to Catholicism, exoticism, and nature. At the age of 11 he entered the Paris Conservatoire, studying organ and improvisation with Marcel Dupré and composition with Paul Dukas. In 1930, he became the principal organist at La Trinité Cathedral in Paris, a post he held for more than 40 years. His distinguished teaching career is marked by appointments in Darmstadt (1950-1953), his famous courses in harmony and analysis at the Paris Conservatoire beginning in 1947, and his appointment as professor of composition there in 1966. His impressive list of students includes Boulez, Stockhausen, and his second wife, keyboardist Yvonne Loriod, among many others.

In synthesizing an individual style, Messiaen discovered in the music of Debussy the properties of "exotic" modes such as the whole-tone and diminished scales, calling them "modes of limited transposition." The inherent symetricalities of these modes enabled Messiaen to create progressions and melodies free of the tonic-dominant polarity of traditional tonal music, while remaining independent of the twelve-tone system as well. Messiaen was gifted with a strong sense of "synaesthesia" or hearing in colors. He often described his music in terms of "color progressions," also equating key signatures and collections (sets) of pitches with specific colors. At an early age, Messiaen developed a strong interest in rhythm, particularly fostered by Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. His rhythmic investigations ranged from Gregorian chant, to ancient Greek poetic meters, to Indian raga, to gamelan music. He soon left regular metric divisions behind, although repetition remained an integral part of his rhythmic vocabulary. All of these elements are explained in great detail in his 1944 publication, Technique de mon langage musical (Technique of my musical language).

In 1940, while a prisoner of war of the Germans, Messiaen composed Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). The quartet's unique instrumentation of piano, clarinet, violin, and cello was written for, and premiered by Messiaen and three fellow inmates while in detention; it became one of the great chamber works of the twentieth century. Messiaen was one of the first composers to apply serial techniques to parameters other than pitch (such as duration, register, and dynamics) in Mode de valeurs et d'intensités (1949) for solo piano. His interest in plain chant and rhythm led him to the ancient Greeks and Hindus, where he discovered processes such as nonretrogradable, additive, and subtractive rhythms. The Turangalila-symphonie of 1948 is the most synthetic of his early works. It features rich orchestration, imaginative use of tonal colors, Hindu rhythms, and a formal scheme that unfolds in large, block-like structures. Also of note here is one of the earliest uses of the Ondes Martenot, an electronic instrument capable of producing eerie glissandi, as well as monophonic melodies. Messiaen had a deep love of birdsong, and spent much time in the wild making extensive transcriptions, many of which would surface in his works, most notably in an arresting orchestral passage in Chronochromie (1960) and the monumental Catalogue d'oiseaux (Catalog of the Birds) (1958) for solo piano. His large body of organ music, composed primarily during his tenure as organist at the Sainte Trinite Cathedral, is highly idiomatic, colorful in harmony and registration, and rhythmically ingenious. From 1950, his Messe de la Pentecote (Mass of the Pentecost) is a collection of improvisations that he shaped into a composition. His only opera, St. Francis d'Assise, was completed in 1983. ~ Todd McComb, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Des Canyons Aux Etoiles

Disc 1
Title: Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51

1. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: I. Le Desert

2. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: II. Les Orioles

3. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: III. Ce Qui Est Ecrit Sur Les Estoiles...

4. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: IV. Le Cossyphe D'Heuglin

5. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: V. Cedar Breaks At Le Don De Crainte

6. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VI. Appel Interstellaire

7. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VII. Bryce Canyon Et Les Rochers Rouge-orange

Disc 2

1. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VIII. Les Ressuscites Et Le Chant De L'Etoile Aldebaran

2. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: IX. Le Moqueur Polyglotte

3. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: La Grive Des Bois

4. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: Omao, Leiothrix, Elepaio, Shama

5. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: Zion Park Et La Cite Celeste

x

Track List: Messiaen: Catalogue D'Oiseaux- Complete Seven Books

Disc 1
Title: Catalogue D'oiseaux (In 7 Books), For Piano, I/42
Disc 2
Disc 3
Title: La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50

4. La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50: La Fauvette Des Jardins

Title: Petites Esquisses D'oiseaux (6), For Piano, I/54
x

Track List: Messiaen: Harawi

Title: Cantéyodjayâ, For Piano, I/30

1. Cantéyodjayâ, For Piano, I/30: Canteyodjaya

Title: Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28

2. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: La Ville Qui Dormait, Toi

3. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Bonjour Toi, Colombe Verte

4. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Montagnes

5. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Doundou Tchil

6. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: L'amour De Piroutcha

7. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Repetition Planetaire

8. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Adieu

9. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Syllabes

10. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: L'escalier Redit, Gestes Du Soleil

11. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Amour Oiseau D'étoile

12. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Katchikatchi Les Etoiles

13. Harawi, Song Cycle For Soprano & Piano, I/28: Dans Le Noir

x

Track List: Messiaen: Livre du Saint Sacrement, Diptyque, Verset - Jennifer Bate

Disc 1
Title: Diptyque, For Organ, I/3
Title: Verset Pour La Fête De La Dédicace, For Organ, I/44
Title: Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53
Disc 2

5. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XIII. Les Deux Murailles D'eau

x

Track List: Messiaen: Oraison

1. Oraison, For Ondes Martenot: Fete Des Belles Eaux: Fete Des Belles Eaux: Oraison (Arr. For 5 Ondes Martenot) (From "The Revenant")

x

Track List: Messiaen: Piano Music, Vol. 4

Title: Les Offrandes Oubliées, Méditations Symphoniques, For Orchestra (also A Piano Reduction), I/5a,b

1. Les Offrandes Oubliées, Méditations Symphoniques, For Orchestra (also A Piano Reduction), I/5a,b: Les Offrandes Oubliees

Title: Fantaisie Burlesque, For Piano, I/11

2. Fantaisie Burlesque, For Piano, I/11: Fantaisie Burlesque

Title: Pièce Pour Le Tombeau De Paul Dukas, For Piano, I/16

3. Pièce Pour Le Tombeau De Paul Dukas, For Piano, I/16: Piece Pour Le Tombeau De Paul Dukas

Title: Rondeau, For Piano, I/24

4. Rondeau, For Piano, I/24: Rondeau

Title: Prélude, For Piano

5. Prélude, For Piano: Prelude (1964) (World Premiere Recoding)

Title: La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50

6. La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50: La Fauvette Des Jardins

7. La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50: La Fauvette Des Jardins ( Le Lac Vert Et Violet...)

8. La Fauvette Des Jardins, For Piano, I/50: La Fauvette Des Jardins (Ondulations De L'eau)

x

Track List: Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time

Title: Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22

1. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: I. Liturgie De Cristal

2. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: II. Vocalise Pour L'Ange Qui Announce La Fin Du Temps

3. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: III. Abime Des Oiseaux

4. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: IV. Intermede

5. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: V. Louange Al'Eternite De Jesus

6. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: VI. Danse De La Fureur, Pour Les Sept Trompettes

7. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: VII. Fouillis D'Arcs-En Ciel, Pour L'Ange Qui Annonce La Fin Du Temps

8. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps, For Violin, Cello, Clarinet & Piano, I/22: VIII. Louange A L'lmmortalité De Jésus

Title: Theme and Variations, for violin & piano, I/10

9. Theme and Variations, for violin & piano, I/10: Theme And Variations

x

Track List: Messiaen: Saint François d'Assise / van Dam, Upshaw, Nagano

Disc 1
Title: Saint François D'assise, Opera In 3 Acts, I/52
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
x

Track List: Messiaen: The Complete Organ Works

Disc 1
Title: La Nativité Du Seigneur, I/14
Disc 2
Title: Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies)

1. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): I. Subtilite Des Corps Glorieux (The Subtlety Of The Glorified Bodies)

2. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): II. Les Eaux De La Grace (The Waters Of Grace)

3. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): III. L'ange Aux Parfums (The Angel With The Incense)

4. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): IV. Combat De La Mort Et De La Vie (The Struggle Between Death And Life)

5. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): V. Force Et Agilite Des Corps Glorieux (The Power And Agility Of The Glorified Bodies)

6. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): VI. Joie Et Clarte Des Corps Glorieux (The Joy And Clarity Of The Glorified Bodies)

7. Les Corps Glorieux, I/20 (The Glorified Bodies): VII. Le Mystere De La Sainte Trinite (The Mystery Of The Holy Trinity)

Title: Verset Pour La Fête De La Dédicace, For Organ, I/44

8. Verset Pour La Fête De La Dédicace, For Organ, I/44: Verset Pour La Fete De La Dedicace (Verset For The Festival Of The Dedication Of A Church)

Disc 3
Title: L'ascension, 4 Mediations, I/12b (Version For Organ)

1. L'ascension, 4 Mediations, I/12b (Version For Organ): I. Majeste Du Christ Demandant Sa Gloire A Son Pere

2. L'ascension, 4 Mediations, I/12b (Version For Organ): II. Alleluias Sereins D'une Ame Qui Desire Le Ciel

3. L'ascension, 4 Mediations, I/12b (Version For Organ): III. Transports De Joie D'une Ame Devant La Gloire Du Christ Qui Est La Sienne

4. L'ascension, 4 Mediations, I/12b (Version For Organ): IV. Priere Du Christ Montant Vers Son Pere

Title: Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36

5. Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36: 1. Entre: Les Langues De Feu

6. Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36: 2. Offertoire: Les Choses Visibles Et Invisibles

7. Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36: 3. Consecration: Le Don De Sagesse

8. Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36: 4. Communion: Les Oiseaux Et Les Sources

9. Messe De La Pentecôte, For Organ, I/36: 5. Sortie: Le Vent De L'esprit

Disc 4
Title: Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49

1. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: I. Le Père Inengendré

2. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: II. La Sainteté De Jésus Christ

3. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: III. La Relation Réelle En Dieu Est Réelement Identique à L'essence

4. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: IV. Je Suis, Je Suis!

5. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: V. Dieu Est Immense, Eternel, Immuable - Le Souffle De L'esprit - Dieu Est Amour

6. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: VI. Le Fils, Verbe Et Lumière

7. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: VII. Le Père Et Le Fils Aiment Par Le Saint-esprit Eux-memes Et Nous

8. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: VIII. Dieu Est Simple

9. Méditations Sur Le Mystère De La Sainte Trinité, I/49: IX. Je Suis Celui Qui Suis

Disc 5
Title: Le Banquet Celeste, I/1

1. Le Banquet Celeste, I/1: Le Banquet Celeste, I/1

Title: Diptyque, For Organ, I/3

2. Diptyque, For Organ, I/3: I. Diptyque, I/3

Title: Apparition De L'église éTernelle

3. Apparition De L'église éTernelle: Apparition De L'eglise Eternelle

Title: Livre D'orgue, I/38

4. Livre D'orgue, I/38: I. Reprises Par Interversion (Reprises By Inversion)

5. Livre D'orgue, I/38: II. Piece En Trio (Trio)

6. Livre D'orgue, I/38: III. Les Mains De L'abime (The Hands Of The Abyss)

7. Livre D'orgue, I/38: IV. Chants D'oiseaux (Birdsongs)

8. Livre D'orgue, I/38: V. Piece En Trio (Trio)

9. Livre D'orgue, I/38: VI. Les Yeux Dans Les Roues (The Eyes In The Wheels)

10. Livre D'orgue, I/38: VII. Soixante-quatre Durees (Sixty-four Durations)

Title: Monodie, I/45a

11. Monodie, I/45a: Monodie

Title: Offrande Au Saint-sacrement

12. Offrande Au Saint-sacrement: Offrande Au Saint-sacrement

Title: Organ Prélude

13. Organ Prélude: Organ Prélude

Disc 6
Title: Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53

1. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: I. Adoro Te (I Adore Thee)

2. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: II. La Source De Vie (The Source Of Life)

3. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: III. Le Dieu Cache (The Hidden God)

4. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: IV. Acte De Foi (Act Of Faith)

5. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: V. Puer Natus Est Nobis (Unto Us A Child Is Born)

6. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VI. La Manne Et Le Pain De Vie (Manna And The Bread Of Life)

7. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VII. Les Ressuscites Et La Lumiere De Vie (The Risen And The Light Of Life)

8. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VIII. Institution De L'eucharistie (Institution Of The Eucharist)

9. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: IX. Les Tenebres (The Darkness)

10. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: X. La Resurrection Du Christ (The Resurrection Of Christ)

11. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XI. L'apparition Du Christ Ressuscite A Marie-madeleine (The Risen Christ Appears To Mary Magdalene)

Disc 7

1. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XII. La Transsubstantiation (The Transubstantiation)

2. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XIII. Les Deux Murailles D'eau (The Two Walls Of Water)

3. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XIV. Priere Avant La Communion (Prayer Before Communion)

4. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XV. La Joie De La Grace (The Joy Of Grace)

5. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVI. Priere Apres La Communion (Prayer After Communion)

6. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVII. La Presence Multipliee (The Multiple Presence)

7. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVIII. Offrande Et Alleluia Final (Offering And Final Alleluia)

x

Track List: Olivier Messiaen: Des Canyons aux Etoiles; Oiseaux Exotiques; Couleurs de la Cité Celeste

Disc 1
Title: Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51

1. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: I. Le Desert

2. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: II. Les Orioles

3. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: III. Ce Qui Est Ecrit Sur Les Estoiles...

4. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: IV. Le Cossyphe D'Heuglin

5. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: V. Cedar Breaks At Le Don De Crainte

6. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VI. Appel Interstellaire

7. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VII. Bryce Canyon Et Les Rochers Rouge-orange

8. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: VIII. Les Ressuscites Et Le Chant De L'Etoile Aldebaran

9. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: IX. Le Moqueur Polyglotte

Disc 2

1. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: I. La Grive Des Bois

2. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: II. Omao, Leiothrix, Elepaio, Shama

3. Des Canyons aux étoiles, for piano & orchestra, I/51: III. Zion Park Et Al Cite Celeste

Title: Oiseaux exotiques, for piano, 11 winds & 7 percussion, I/41

4. Oiseaux exotiques, for piano, 11 winds & 7 percussion, I/41: Exotic Birds For Piano Solo And Small Orchestra

Title: Couleurs de la cité céleste, for piano, 13 winds & 6 percussion, I/46

5. Couleurs de la cité céleste, for piano, 13 winds & 6 percussion, I/46: Colors Of The Celestial City

x

Track List: Olivier Messiaen: Livre du Saint-Sacrement

Disc 1
Title: Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53

1. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: I. Adoro Te

2. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: II. La Source De Vie

3. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: III. Le Dieu Cache

4. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: IV. Acte De Foi

5. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: V. Puer Natus Est Nobis

6. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VI. La Manne Et La Pain De Vie

7. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VII. Les Ressuscites Et La Lumiere De Vie

8. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: VIII. Institution De I:eucharistie

9. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: IX. Les Tenebres

10. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: X. La Resurrection Du Christ

Disc 2

1. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XI. L'apparition Du Christ Ressuscite A Marie-madeleine

2. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XII. Le Transsubstantiation

3. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XIII. Les Deux Murailles D'eau

4. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XIV. Priere Avant La Communion

5. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XV. Le Joie De Le Grace

6. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVI. Prière Après La Communion

7. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVII. La Presence Muitipliee

8. Livre Du Saint-sacrement, For Organ, I/53: XVIII. Offrande Et Alleluia Final

x

Track List: Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla Symphony; L'ascension

x

Track List: Olivier Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus

Disc 1
Title: Regards (20) Sur L'enfant Jésus, For Piano, I/27
Disc 2
x

Track List: Olivier Messiaen: Éclairs sur l'au-delà (Illuminations of the Beyond)

Title: Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61

1. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: I. Apparition Du Christ Glorieux

2. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: II. La Constellation Du Sagittaire

3. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: III. L'oiseau-lyre Et La Ville-fiancée

4. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: IV. Les éLus Marqués Du Sceau

5. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: V. Demeurer Dans L'amour

6. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: VI. Les Sept Anges Aux Sept Trompettes

7. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: VII. Et Dieu Essuiera Toute Larme De Leurs Yeux

8. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: VIII. Les Etoiles Et La Gloire

9. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: IX. Plusieurs Oiseaux Des Arbres De Vie

10. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: X. Le Chemin De L'invisible

11. Eclairs sur l'au-delá, for orchestra, I/61: XI. Le Christ, Lumière Du Paradis

Comments

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hi
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Like a dark prayer.
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pianoprayert r a c y
Le Merle Bleu is such an awesome song!
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Wow
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Music to open your sonic sinuses. Yes. (Cee Rex)
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johnafjr
I feel very lucky to have found the Quartet for $1 at a thrift store. It has changed & is still changing my life. Bravo!
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Sonic stained glass that splashes and beads like water. Birds of mercury. Cities of light and crystal.
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kenn7727
It's a music too esoteric not to listen to, too beautiful to miss, too striking to understand.
Report as inappropriate
2008 is a "Messiaen Centennial." To see worldwide listing see:
www.messiaen 2 0 0 8 . c o m

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