Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Louange à l'éclat de Messiaen

Somewhere in the midst of the day, I saw someone mention that today is Olivier Messiaen's birthday. This set my mind to wandering a bit, and I thought of Bruce Adolphe's gorgeous "Piano Puzzler" setting of Hey Jude, in which McCartney's tune wanders among a series of transcendent chords from Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus, the particularly radiant fifth movement of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. I played Adolphe's arrangement in a "mashup" recital I gave in 2013.

So, I figured a birthday tribute might be in order. I'm slightly torn about taking such an overexposed tune and mixing it in with Messiaen's transcendent musical visions, but I think Messiaen wins here, with the tune coming across more beautifully than I'd expected. I've heard many, many "Happy Birthday" transcriptions "in the style of" various composers (including this), but somehow this one doesn't end up sounding silly to me.

For some reason, I first panicked about posting this before Messiaen's birthday ended overseas, so seconds before midnight in Paris, I twittered out a link to a hurried synthesized version, which you can hear below. Within the hour I'd also recorded a live piano version; but best of all, I've now talked the house cellist into a cello/piano version, which is how the 5th movement of Messiaen's quartet is scored. We got this down in one take after dinner, and though I wish the piano was better tuned, it's worth remembering that the composer premiered this monumental work on a very humble-looking prison camp upright piano, so I probably shouldn't complain. Happy birthday, Olivier!


spcfsu said...

Funny and yet very effective ! Would you please by any chance share the score ?



Yes, my apologies for not seeing this comment sooner. (Gmail puts these messages in my "social" folder and I forget to check some time.)

This is hardly a ready-to-publish score, but I think it's more or less what we played from. The meters don't necessarily make perfect sense - some of them were inherited from my starting point of Adolphe's "Hey, Jude" arrangement.

Someday I'd like to fill out the piano part more (it was originally made to serve only as L.H., but with a cello part, could easily be made fuller.)

Anyway, the best current link is: