Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death. He taught at the Schola Cantorum during the 1930s where one of his students was Georges Savaria. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners for an audience of inmates and prison guards. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.”
"Granted, the 1956 recordings are not without their flaws. The sound is monophonie (even though stereo was available then), and the fidelity merely adequate - certainly no match for the extraordinary engineering that Mercury Living Presence recordings had already achieved at that time. Also, the organ is in a poor state of repair: sometimes painfully out of tune (the coupled-flutes solo in Diptyque becomes excruciating, as can most registrations with mutations or mixtures) with some poor regulation (the 16' Basson solo low C doubles down something fierce), dead notes (treble D disappears from the Tierce in the monophony of "Offertoire" from Messe de la Pentecôte, p. 4), and sometimes inadequate wind (e.g., the sagging final chord of "Dieu parmi nous"; it figures that if seven stops and a pneumatic lever were added to an organ without increasing its wind capacity, there could be trouble!).”
Some critics say that Messiaen wasn’t really an organist and therefore his rendering of his organ music cannot be trusted as his original intentions. Some critics say that they lack on the technical side simply that Messiaen wasn’t technically up for the job playing his organ music. I think both arguments are quite simply wrong. It’s clear that Messiaen plays his works with brilliance, deep understanding, and he is all the way through technically in total command. When he chooses to go alternative ways compared to the text, it’s because he want’s to do it that way. I don’t like to hail any recording as the definitive recording, but these recordings are a fascinating view into the musicianship and aesthetic of Olivier Messiaen.
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