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Saint François d’Assise [Scènes franciscains (‘Franciscan Scenes’)](‘St Francis of Assisi’)locked

  • Paul Griffiths


Opera in three acts by olivier Messiaen Olivier Messiaen .

The work is in eight self-contained scenes, each further subdivided into small units, often placed in repetitive patterns. The solo vocal writing suggests plainchant (though the modes are Messiaen’s own), and the sense of a liturgy is enhanced by a monumental chorus of 150 voices. The orchestra is on a similar scale (120 players), and includes large woodwind and tuned-percussion sections as well as three ondes martenot, all providing resources for the vivid amplified birdsongs that underline and punctuate the score. Each scene is the exposition of a single moment in the saint’s life, omitting the conflicts of his early years to centre on his faith and attainment of grace: there is no dramatic continuity either within the scenes or from one to another; rather they are single, static and separate, like a cycle of stained-glass windows....

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