messiaen Olivier (1908-1992).

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messiaen Olivier (1908-1992).
AUTOGRAPHIC MUSICAL MANUSCRIPT signed "Olivier Messiaen", Couleurs de la Cité céleste (1963); one volume in-fol. (36 x 27 cm) of 3 leaves and 72 pages, interfoliated with crystal paper serpents, all bound in brown cloth, with title label. Score for piano and small orchestra inspired by the Apocalypse and coloured hearing. Composed in 1963, the Couleurs de la Cité céleste was commissioned by Heinrich Strobel (specifying that the work should include 3 trombones and 3 xylophones) for the Donaueschingen Festival. They mark Messiaen's return to religiously inspired subjects, with visions inspired by the Apocalypse, but they also feature a very rich palette of sound colours (Messiaen was gifted with a sense of coloured hearing: when he read a musical score, he saw colours), associated with rhythmic structures that give a large place to percussion. The work was premiered in Donaueschingen on October 17, 1964 with Yvonne Loriod and the Orchestre du Domaine musical under the direction of Pierre Boulez, then by the same musicians in Paris, at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, at the Domaine musical concerts on December 16, 1964. It was published by Alphonse Leduc in January 1967. It lasts 17 minutes. It is worth quoting Messiaen himself: "The form of the work depends entirely on the colours. The melodic or rhythmic themes, the complexes of sounds and timbres, evolve in the manner of colours. In their perpetually renewed variations, one can find (by analogy) hot and cold colours, complementary colours influencing their neighbours, colours degraded towards white, reduced by black. We can compare these transformations to characters acting on several superimposed scenes and telling several different stories simultaneously. Alleluias of plainsong, Hindu and Greek rhythms, permutations of durations, bird songs from different countries: all these accumulated materials are put at the service of colour and the combinations of sounds that presuppose and call for it. The colour-sounds are in turn a symbol of the "Celestial City" and of the "One" who inhabits it. Out of all time, out of all place, in a light without light, in a night without night... What the Apocalypse, even more terrifying in its humility than in its visions of glory, designates only by a dazzle of colors... [...] The work does not end any more than it began, but turns on itself like a rosette of flaming and invisible colours... The manuscript is very carefully written in black pencil on 30-line Durand paper. Messiaen enamelled it with indications of colours, in addition to the usual indications of tempo, dynamics, nuance, and identification of birdsong. The score is preceded by preliminary sheets. The first one indicates: "Score written in 1963. It is notated in real tones and in real octaves". This is followed by a very interesting Author's Note. "This work is based on five quotations from the Apocalypse: 1) "A rainbow encircled the throne..." (Rev., IV, 3) - 2) "And the seven angels had seven trumpets..." (Apoc., VII, 6) - 3) "And the star was given the key of the bottomless pit..." (Apoc., IX, 1) - 4) "The brightness of the holy city is like crystalline jasper..." (Rev., XXI, 11) - 5) "The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every precious stone: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, hyacinth, amethyst..." (Apoc., XXI, 19, 20). Evoked by sets of sounds, we find different combinations of colors, such as: yellow topaz, light green chrysoprase, and crystal - green emerald, purple amethyst - red, orange, and gold - red sardius - red, stained with blue - purple blue - orange, gold, milky white - purple - green emerald, sapphire blue, and gold - pink, purple, and gray. There are also Hindu and Greek rhythms, and "symmetrical permutations of durations". Finally, I have used, very partially, some plainsong themes, and, more frequently, bird songs. Then follows the list of Alleluias of plainsong, and that of the birds classified by country (New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada)... Finally, Messiaen drew up the Nomenclature of the instruments. "WOOD: 3 clarinets in B flat. COPPER: 1 small trumpet in D, 3 trumpets, 2 horns in F (and B flat), 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone. SOLO: Piano solo. PERCUSTED KEYBOARDS: xylophone, xylorimba, marimba. OTHER PERCUSSIONS: I) set of cencerros, II) set of tube bells, III) 4 gongs and 2 tam-tams. (in all: 20 players, including the piano solo). Bibliography: Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone, Olivier Messiaen (Fayard, 2008), p. 324-330. Discography: Yvonne Loriod, Percussions de Strasbourg, Orchestre du Domaine Musical, dir. Pierre Boulez (Erato 1988).
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