For the End of Time

For the End of Time : The Story of the Messiaen Quartet

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The clarinetist Rebecca Rischin has written a captivating book. . . . Her research dispels several long-cherished myths about the 1941 premiere. . . . Rischin lovingly brings to life the other musicians-Etienne Pasquier, cellist; Henri Akoka, clarinetist; and Jean Le Boulaire, violinist-who played with Messiaen, the pianist at the premiere."-Alex Ross, The New Yorker "This book offers a wealth of new information about the circumstances under which the Quartet was created. Based on original interviews with the performers, witnesses to the premiere, and documents from the prison camp, this first comprehensive history of the Quartet's composition and premiere held my interest from beginning to end. . . . For the End of Time touches on many things: faith, friendship, creativity, grace in a time of despair, and the uncommon human alliances that wartime engenders."-Arnold Steinhardt, Chamber Music"The clarification of the order of composition of the movements is just one of the minor but cumulatively significant ways in which Rischin modifies the widely accepted account of the events at Stalag VIII A. . . . For the End of Time is a thorough and readable piece of investigative journalism that clarifies some important points about the Quartet's genesis."-Michael Downes, Times Literary Supplement The premiere of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time on January 15, 1941, has been called one of the great stories of twentieth-century music. Composed while Messiaen (1908-1992) was imprisoned by the Nazis in Stalag VIII A, the work was performed under the most trying of circumstances: the temperature, inferior instruments, and the general conditions of life in a POW camp.Based on testimonies by the musicians and their families, witnesses to the premiere, former prisoners, and on documents from Stalag VIII A, For the End of Time examines the events that led to the Quartet's composition, the composer's interpretive preferences, and the musicians' problems in execution and how they affected the premiere and subsequent performances. Rebecca Rischin explores the musicians' life in the prison camp, their relationships with each other and with the German camp officials, and their intriguing fortunes before and after the momentous premiere. This paperback edition features supplementary texts and information previously unavailable to the author about the Quartet's premiere, Vichy and the composer, the Paris premiere, a recording featuring Messiaen as performer, and an updated bibliography and discography.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 14.22mm | 369g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • Updated Edition with New Material
  • Line drawings, black and white
  • 0801472970
  • 9780801472978
  • 298,003

Review quote

"Rebecca Rischin's book is an interesting narration of the origin of the Quartet for the End of Time that goes into detail about the tragic and conflicting circumstances surrounding its creation and first performance. I do not know of any other book with such specific information about this period in Messiaen's life."-Roberto Sierra, Cornell University "Messiaen's Quartet was given the most unusual and moving premiere of any in the twentieth century. The exaggerations which followed have distorted the event, and in some ways overshadowed the art. Rebecca Rischin has set all that straight, restored the truth of the occasion, and reasserted the power of this stunning music. It turns out the cello actually had four strings, Stalag VIII A was no death camp, and the work's enduring mythology was also composed by Messiaen. This fascinating new book shows how, and why, this came to pass."-Charles Barber, San Francisco Conservatory of Music "Rebecca Rischin's illuminating look at the participating personalities and historical context of the creation of Olivier Messiaen's Quatour pour la fin du temps, one of the greatest artistic triumphs of the twentieth century, provides valuable insight into the complex circumstances surrounding this extraordinary premiere and allows us a very special glimpse into the warmth and strength of the human spirit."-Kent Nagano, Music Director and Principal Conductor, Deutsches Symphonie Orchestra, Berlin, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Opera "Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps has acquired such a mythical status that it is good to find someone demythologizing it. . . . This is a splendid book full of human interest stories: the kindly German officer who facilitated the rehearsals and the performance; the strange life of Le Boulaire; the adventures of the characterful Akoka, who survived despite being Jewish and even escaped from the camp with his clarinet. It is all here."-Tully Potter, Classic Record Collector, Winter 2003 "Rischin carefully describes conditions in the camp, how Messiaen was able to compose, the eventual release or escape of the four musicians, and the musical ideas expressed in the quartet's rhythms, tempi, and sonorities. . . . A concise book full of insight into a chamber music classic and its first performers."-Booklist, 15 November 2003 "In Rebecca Rischin's excellent . . . book. . ., Messiaen's detachment from temporality emerges in high relief when, during World War II, he wrote large parts of his ethereal Quartet for the End of Time while a prisoner of war in a German camp."-David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, 30 September 2003 "What emerges is a tale full of warmth and humanity that is, if anything, far more remarkable than the composer's careful selection of anecdotes. By turns moving, astonishing, challenging and funny, it is a story that deserves to be heard. Strongly recommended."-BBC Music Magazine "The writing and first performance of French composer Olivier Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time,' in a German POW camp in the bitter winter of 1941, is one of the great stories of twentieth century music. Ohio University music professor Rischin has gone to heroic lengths to separate the facts from the legends that have grown up about it. . . . Rischin tracked down the elderly Pasquier and violinist Jean La Boulaire (who lived his postwar life as an actor) and also talked to Messiaen's widow and Akoka's surviving family. . . . These interviews show a remarkable picture of life at a desperate time-and of how the German authorities were anxious to show their civilized side to the French. . . . This is a fascinating, and finally believable, account of a remarkable occasion."-Publishers Weekly "The clarinetist Rebecca Rischin has written a captivating book . . . . Her research dispels several long-cherished myths about the 1941 premiere. As Messiaen told the story, he and three friends performed under the most trying circumstances-using dilapidated instruments, including a three-stringed cello-and won the hearts of five thousand hardened soldiers. In fact, the instruments, while inferior, were adequate to the task, and the crowd was more like three hundred. . . . Rischin lovingly brings to life the other musicians"Tienne Pasquier, cellist; Henri Akoka, clarinetist; and Jean Le Boulaire, violinist-who played with Messiaen, the pianist at the premiere."-Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 22 March 2004
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Rating details

67 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 24% (16)
4 49% (33)
3 21% (14)
2 6% (4)
1 0% (0)
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