Olivier Messiaen

From Organ Playing Wiki
Jump to navigationJump to search


French organist, composer, and teacher

  • 10 Dec 1908, born in Avignon, France
  • 1924, Paris, Entered Paris Conservitoire.
  • Autumn 1927, Paris, Studied organ with Marcel Dupre.
  • 1929-31, Paris, deputy organist at Église de la Sainte-Trinité
  • 1931-92, Paris, organist at Église de la Sainte-Trinité
  • 1930's, composed several of his multi-movement organ works
  • 1984, Livre du Saint Sacrament published
  • 27 Apr 1992, died in Paris, France


From his birth, French composer Olivier Messiaen was surrounded by the arts. When he was only eleven years old he entered the Paris Conservatory, studying organ with Marcel Dupré and composition with Paul Dukas. He took first prize in both areas, as well as in improvisation. In 1930 he became the organist at Trinity church, Paris. He joined the faculty of his alma mater, the Paris Conservatory in 1942. Throughout the rest of his life he worked at various music centers around the world including Tanglewood, 1948, and Darmustadt, 1950-1953. It was through such institutions that Messiaen's unique style influenced many students, including Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez.

Messiaen was very religious and his music, both organ and other, reflects his extreme faith­bordering on mysticism. He used musical resources from many traditions, ranging from rhythms of the orient to early Christian Gregorian Chant to birdsong. His pieces achieve unity through his careful interdependence of melodies, rhythms, and harmonies.

Points of Interest

  • Messiaen served in the French army during World War II (1939). He was a prisoner for two years in a German prison camp in Silesca, where he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time).
  • He was an elected member of many organizations, ranging from the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • Messiaen wrote the two-volume work The Technique of My Musical Language in 1957.
  • He married one of his students, the pianist Yvonne Loriod.
  • To get a sense of his style, here is a video recording of Messiaen improvising.


  • La Nativité du Seigneur
  • Le Corps glorieux
  • Messe de la Pentecôte
  • Livre d'orgue
  • L'Ascension
  • Meditations sur le mystére de la Sainte Trinite

For details, see the Wikipedia article on Olivier Messiaen.

List of Organ Works[edit]

Click to sort by opus number, title, or year of composition or publication
Opus French Title English Translation Year
Op. ?? Esquisse modale ??? 1927 (unpub.)
Op. ?? Le banquet céleste The heavenly banquet 1928
Op. ?? L'hôte aimable des âmes ??? 1928 (unpub.)
Op. ?? Variations écossaises ??? 1928 (unpub.)
Op. ?? Offrande au Saint-Sacrament ??? 1930-35 (unpub.)
Op. ?? Diptyque Diptych 1930
Op. ?? Apparition de l'église éternelle Apparition of the eternal church 1932
Op. ?? L'ascension The Ascension 1932-33
Op. ?? La Nativité du Seigneur The Lord's nativity 1935
Op. ?? Les corps glorieux Glorious bodies 1939
Op. ?? Messe de la Pentecôte Pentecost mass 1949-50
Op. ?? Livre d'orgue ??? 1951-2
Op. ?? Verset pour la Fête de la dédicace Verse for the festival of dedication 1960
Op. ?? Monodie ??? 1963
Op. ?? Méditations sur le mystèrede la Sainte Trinité Meditations on the mystery of the Holy Trinity 1969
Op. ?? Livre du Saint Sacrament Book of the Holy Sacrament 1984
Op. ?? Prelude ??? ???? (unpub.)

Background and General Perspectives on Performing Messiaen Organ Works[edit]

Replace this text with any general perspectives that do not fit under the categories listed below. (For comments on a specific piece or genre, use the list of pieces above to navigate to that page.)

Registration and Organs[edit]

Replace this text with information on registration and organs that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces

See the footnote in the "Notes" section at the bottom of the page[1]

Fingering and Pedaling[edit]

Replace this text with information on fingering and pedaling that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces

Articulation and Phrasing[edit]

Replace this text with information on articulation and phrasing that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces


Replace this text with information on ornamentation that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces

Tempo and Meter[edit]

Replace this text with information on tempo and meter that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces

Scores and Editions[edit]

Replace this text with information on scores and editions that might be applicable to the whole set of pieces


Replace this text with information on recordings

Free Online[edit]

Messiaen - L'Ascension, for solo organ, performed by Olivier Latry

Olivier Messiaen - improvisation "Puer Natus Est", performed by Olivier Messiaen

Pay to Listen[edit]

Other Resources[edit]

Replace this text with information on other resources that might be pertinent to performing these pieces


  1. This footnote was entered in the "Registration and Organs" section

This space is for automatic insertion of footnotes. To enter a footnote from anywhere in the article, start by typing the tag <ref> and then enter the text, and type the tag </ref> to end the footnote. The footnote will then appear in this "Notes" section automatically.