Messiaen’s ‘Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum’


I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment with wandering into the room to hear the second half of great pieces of music. Yesterday evening it was Simon Rattle and the CBSO at Aldeburgh in 2011, playing Messiaen’s ‘Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum’.

Messiaen was, I think, the greatest Catholic artist of the 20th century (in any medium). I may write about him another time but, for the time being, I’d like to leave you with a passage I wrote in Out of the Classroom and Into the World:

“Listening to BBC Radio 3, the UK’s classical music station, I am constantly heartened by references to Catholic beliefs and practices that have all but disappeared from every other area of public discourse. Where else will you hear the Stabat Mater, the Salve Regina, and the Mass mentioned on a regular basis? Where else will you hear devotions to Our Lady, requiems for the dead, and prayers to God? We sometimes wonder where the next great Catholic novelist or artist is coming from but there are many highly regarded composers working today—including James MacMillan and Arvo Pärt—for whom Christianity is the central concern. And if we look back through the history of classical music we find composer after composer who saw no conflict at all between his or her music and his or her vocation: Olivier Messiaen, Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke, Henryk Górecki, François Poulenc, Edward Elgar, Manuel de Falla, Anton Bruckner, Franz Liszt (who received minor orders), Antonio Vivaldi (who was a priest), Hildegard of Bingen (who is a Doctor of the Church). The list goes on and on. And that’s without even mentioning those minor composers Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.”




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