frontside happenings

Messiaen – 80 years after the premiere


”Messiaen shone as a fierce defiance against the pandemic.”
Martin Nyström, DN

The 2021 Frontside Festival was possible to experience via livestream directly from Älvsborg Church in the midst of the pandemic, thanks to organist Hans Davidsson and the Älvsborg congregation. The theme was Frontside Light – Let the music sound! The theme reflected on the power of music and its ability to endure in all kinds of situations since ancient times.

One of the festival’s key pieces, strongly tied to its theme, was the French composer Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour la fin du temps” (Quartet for the End of Time), which was performed on Friday, January 15, precisely 80 years after its premiere.

Messiaen, who was deeply Catholic, completed one of chamber music’s most fascinating and emotionally charged works under extremely difficult conditions as a prisoner of war in the Nazi internment camp Stalag VIII-A near the town of Görlitz in southeastern Germany.

The premiere took place on January 15, 1941, for at least 400 prisoners of war and camp guards. Messiaen himself on the piano and three fellow prisoners on clarinet, violin and cello performed the quartet. Their instruments were in poor condition, missing keys, strings, and pads. It must have been cold. One can hardly imagine the situation.

Messiaen later recalled the event, saying, “Never have I been listened to with such attention and understanding.” The quartet’s clarinetist, Henri Akoka, commented on the piece: “It is the only thing I want to remember from the war!”

If you want to delve deeper into this legendary work, we recommend you to listen to P2 Documentär from 2021.

2021 Frontside Light – Let the music sound!
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