Messiaen, Olivier (Eugène Prosper Charles )
- Paul Griffiths
(Eugène Prosper Charles )
(b Avignon, Dec 10, 1908; d Paris, April 27, 1992). French composer, organist and teacher. He was a musician apart. The sources of his music may be traced on the one hand to the French organ tradition and on the other to the innovations of Debussy, Stravinsky and Bartók, but right at the start of his career he found a modal system that has a completely individual sound, and to this he remained true, even when he vastly extended the possibilities of his style after World War II. He was alone, too, among major 20th-century composers in his joyously held Catholic faith, which again was unswerving, however much he came to value non-European cultures, especially Indian and Japanese. As a teacher he instructed many of the most prominent composers of the next two generations.
In a sense his life as an artist began before he was born, for his mother, Cécile Sauvage, wrote during her pregnancy a cycle of poems, ...