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Profile of Olivier Messiaen



December 10, 1908


Avignon, France; his father was an English literature scholar named Pierre Messiaen and his mother was Cécile Sauvage, a poet.


April 27, 1992 at Clichy, near Paris

Also Known As:

French composer, educator and organist of the 20th century. His full name was Olivier Eugène Prosper Charles Messiaen. He founded La Jeune France (Young France), a group which aspired to promote French music.

Type of Compositions:

Messiaen is known for his birdsongs and much of his music was also based on the Catholic faith. He also wrote organ pieces, chamber music, orchestral, piano and vocal works.


Amazingly, Olivier Messiaen learned how to play the piano by himself and by seven years old was already composing music. He would later on study at the Paris Conservatoire with Paul Dukas and Marcel Dupré among his teachers. His early works were influenced by DeBussy. He became organist at La Trinite in Paris and taught at various music schools including the Paris Conservatoire with Pierre Boulez as one of his students.

Musical Work:

Among his known works are: "Offrandes oubliées,' "Nativité du Seigneur," "Quatuor pour la fin du temps," "Trois Petites Liturgies de la présence divine,' "Visions de l'amen," "La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ," "Turangalîla-Symphonie,' "Chronochromie," "Le Réveil des oiseaux," "Oiseaux exotiques" "Harawi" "Saint Francois d' Assise," and "Catalogue d'oiseaux."

Interesting Facts:

During World War 2, he became a prisoner of war and it was during that time when he wrote "Quatuor pour la fin du temps" (Quartet for the End of Time). His first wife was a violinist named Claire Delbos; his second wife was Yvonne Loriod, a pianist.

Related Video:

Listen to Great Britain's National Youth Orchestra along with several notable musicians perform Olivier Messiaen's "Turangalîla Symphonie" courtesy of YouTube.

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