Recently discovered Olivier Messiaen piano work to be premiered this autumn

Charlotte Smith31st Jul 2013
Recently discovered Olivier Messiaen piano work to be premiered this autumn A recently discovered work by Oliver Messiaen will be premiered in November (photo: Malcolm Crowthers)

A recently discovered work by French composer Olivier Messiaen is to receive its premiere as part of Sheffield’s Music in the Round on November 2 this year. La Fauvette Passerinette was unearthed amongst Messiaen’s sketches by scholar and pianist Peter Hill, who not only studied with the composer, but has also recorded his complete piano music for Regis.

‘This is an immensely exciting find – a substantial 15-minute piece for piano in the composer’s birdsong style that dates from 1961,’ said Hill. ‘What emerged from deciphering the sketches is a work in an advanced state of completion, while the few passages still in composer’s shorthand I was able to complete by cross-referencing to the birdsong notations Messiaen made in the spring of 1961.’

‘Very possibly the new piece was intended as the start of another cycle of piano pieces to match the earlier Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956 – 58). But by the end of 1961 Messiaen found himself with three commissions for orchestral works; the piano project was never fulfilled, and the sketches for La Fauvette Passerinette put away and forgotten. Musically, the piece shows considerable differences with the style of Catalogue d’oiseaux, particularly in the rich harmonisation of the birdsong. There is also an extraordinary passage of rhythmical repeated chords (representing a flock of ‘coucous géais’) quite unlike anything else in Messiaen’s music.’

The world premiere of La Fauvette Passerinette will be given at Upper Chapel, Sheffield as part of Music in the Round’s autumn 2013 series. The concert will also be recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

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