January 2008: From the Canyons To the Stars the Music of Olivier Messiaen

The Philharmonia Orchestra is mounting a significant celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Messiaen’s birth (1908-1992), from 4 February to 23 October. Esa-Pekka Salonen, who becomes Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor in September, conducts the first part in February with concerts in London, Basingstoke, Cardiff, Southend-on-Sea, Bari, Luxembourg, Parma and Palermo and featuring two iconic works: Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

Both works are iconic pieces in Salonen's own history; indeed Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie was the piece that inspired him to take up music. "I was about 11 and couldn't believe there was music like that… if that's what you could produce, I thought it must be the most fascinating thing on earth."

The exploration of Messiaen's work throughout the festival highlights the sheer range of the composer's output from the chamber music (Quatuor pour la fin du Temps) to song cycles (Poèmes pour Mi), from works for solo piano and small ensemble (Oiseaux exotiques) to the two very gigantic but very different masterpieces: Turangalîla-symphonie and La Transfiguration de Notre-Seigneur Jésus Christ. The Philharmonia is proud to bring together an array of performers who are not only the very finest exponents of Messiaen's music, but who knew and admired him as a friend, teacher or mentor: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, George Benjamin, Sylvain Cambreling, Roger Muraro, Cynthia Millar and Kent Nagano. The concert on 21 October brings together the music of two of his pupils – George Benjamin and Xenakis – with Messiaen's own Chronochromie and Ligeti’s Atmosphères.

Other resources and events in the Series include recitals by the Soloists of the Philharmonia Orchestra, performing Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du Temps in Basingstoke, Southend-on-Sea and Worcester, pre-concert talks and a major web resource at www.philharmonia.co.uk/messiaen, online from February.

The Orchestra’s concerts at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall form part of Southbank Centre’s major festival, From the Canyons to the Stars: The Music of Olivier Messiaen, celebrating Messiaen's centenary year, in collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Academy of Music and London Sinfonietta, with Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, London Oratory, St Paul's Cathedral, Intermusica and Harrison Parrott.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Festival Artistic Director, commented:
"London has always been at the forefront in celebrating the music of Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen, measurer of time and craftsman in sound and colour, has influenced generations of composers. His spirituality, his love of nature, and the sheer boldness of his music communicate directly with audiences. This gentle dreamer with a collector's soul worked independently of contemporary trends–unclassifiable because, piece by piece, he constructed a truly unique language. It is my great wish that this festival, in homage to Messiaen, will illuminate the many aspects of this great original."

David Whelton, Philharmonia Orchestra Managing Director,said:
"This is one of the most important projects that the Philharmonia Orchestra has ever undertaken. The vision behind it, and driving force that has led to its rich fruition over more than seven years, is that of the Orchestra's President, Mr Vincent Meyer, who has also enabled it to take place through the generous support of the Meyer Foundation. We are extremely proud to bring some of Messiaen's colossal works, performed so rarely, to the stage in honour of Messiaen's centenary, and indebted to Vincent for his immense contribution to the Orchestra's artistic life."

A full schedule of dates,repertoire and booking information for the Series is attached. More detailed information is available at www.philharmonia.co.uk/messiaen.