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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quatuor pour la fin du temps

posted by on December 26 at 17:30 PM

This is terribly exciting:

In a genre-spanning program, Joshua Roman has chosen three innovative 20th century works. Beginning with the Quartet for the End of Time by French composer Olivier Messiaen. Featuring the same instrumentation as the Messiaen (clarinet, violin, cello, and piano), Dan Visconti”s Fractured Jams is an exploration of the thrill, confusion and driving power of rock and carefully-crafted lyrisicm of Tin Pan Alley. In the program’s second half, Roman along with clarinetist Bill Kalinkos, pianist Grace Fong, and violinist Amy Iwazumi, vocalist Sarah Rudinoff, “Awesome’s” John Osebold, and percussionist Doug Marrapodi perform a medley of works by the influential rock band Radiohead.

Not because of Joshua Roman, Sarah Rudinoff, or John Osebold, each of whom is demonstrably better than most things and should make you feel lucky to live in this city.

But because of Quartet for the End of Time, which was composed by a French soldier (and Catholic mystic) and was first performed in a Nazi prison camp and sounds like a soul leaving a body and floating up to heaven. Then it sounds like a portent of the apocalypse. Then a long clarinet solo that sounds exactly like its name: “the abyss of birds.” Then it sounds like floating again.

Hear more bits of it here. And read Alex Ross’s very good essay about it here.

It’s a great essay, with solider-musicians: “He [the Quartet’s original clarinetist] was an Algerian-born Jew who survived the war through blind luck and mad courage. He tried several times to escape, and, in April, 1941, he succeeded: while being transferred from one camp to another by train, he jumped from the top of a fast-moving cattle car, with his clarinet under his arm.”

And an improbably kindly prison guard: “A German patriot with anti-Nazi tendencies, he kept a sympathetic watch over Jewish prisoners, repeatedly advising them not to try to escape, because they would be safer in Stalag VIIIA than in Vichy France.”

And the weird, attractive, and weirdly attractive composer: “He loved God in terms that were sensual, almost sexual.” (Here he is.)


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It happens Jan 10. I can’t wait.

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No, the best music of the 20th century is "I'm Not Rough" by Louis Armstrong.

Posted by Fnarf | December 27, 2007 4:10 PM

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