Olivier Messiaen—Quartet for the End of Time

Quartet for the End of Time 2

Olivier Messiaen. Quartet For the End of Time. Paris: Durand, 1942. Piano part, pp. 50-51.

© Copyright by Durand & Cie 1942.

Quartet for the End of Time 3

Music Library M422.M58 Q2

            Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time is a notable piece of chamber music. Scored for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the work was composed and first performed at a Nazi detainment camp in 1941 while the composer was a prisoner. Messiaen, a devout Catholic, based the work on ideas from Revelation 10, where time is forever abolished. Throughout the eight movements, the work’s rhythms consistently challenge the concept of ordered time.

            The final movement, Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus, for violin and piano, is displayed here. The movement concludes Messiaen’s quartet with awe-inspiring reverence, where the violin slowly climbs to a high register, creating a parallel to humanity’s eventual ascent to meet God. Timelessness is reinforced by the lack of motion and rhythmic activity in the piano. Just as Haydn’s Creation looked back to eternity before time’s beginning at the outset of this exhibit, so Messiaen’s quartet concludes it by looking forward to an eternity in Paradise with God after time ceases. The score is an early edition of the work, published in 1942, and comes from the Cook Music Library’s collection.