The 31-year-old French composer Olivier Messiaen was captured and imprisoned by the German army in June 1940. Among his fellow prisoners were three other professional musicians – clarinettist Henri Akoka, violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier. A passage in chapter 10 of the Book of Revelation provides the inspiration for Quatuor pour la fin du temps: “And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever … that there should be time no longer.” Messiaen wrote what has become one of his most important works while in prison and it was first performed with the composer at the piano to an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards. The premiere took place outdoors in the rain in January 1941. Messiaen later recalled: “Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension”
18 years and under £5
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