An Exploration of Performance Practice Issues for the Piano in Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour le fin du Temps (1941), Visions de l'Amen (1943) and Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (1944).
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This thesis explores the performance practice of three major works involving piano composed by Olivier Messiaen between 1940 and 1944. These are considered through a descriptive analysis of historic commercial recordings that are known to have been directly influenced by the composer, a survey of existing interview material and secondary sources, and interviews with selected leading exponents of Messiaen’s piano music. Many issues of interest are apparent in the historic recordings analysed. Some involve factors not accorded detail in the score, others depart from instructions in the score, and some appear to be permanently intended changes to the published score. This suggests that a well informed performance practice of this music requires consideration of many elements that extend beyond the instructions in the printed score. Comparisons of recordings by pianists who studied the Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus with Messiaen, or with his primary exponent Yvonne Loriod, reveal that their approaches diverged in some significant ways on the playing of this solo work, but to a much lesser extent when playing Visions de l’Amen or the Quatuor pour la fin du Temps. This suggests that at some point Loriod began to perform and teach Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus in a more independent way, while Messiaen remained a guiding figure in rehearsals and recordings of the ensemble works. As a result, appropriate interpretation of Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus may require consideration of the performances of pianists who worked on the repertoire directly with the composer. It is also evident that Messiaen genuinely intended the very slow tempi in certain movements of the works studied, and that he encouraged full use of these tempi in performance.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Performance practice issues