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Quartet For The End Time

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Quartet For The End Of Time


RCA Victor

Gold Seal 7835-2-RG




Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps

Quartet for the End of Time

Quartett fur das Ende der Zeit


1. Liturgie de cristal  - Liturgy of crystal 2:23

2. Vocalise, pour l'Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps - Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of Time

3. Abime des oiseaux - Abyss of the birds

4. Intermede - Interlude 1:50

5. Louange a l'Eternite de Jesus - Praise to the Eternity of Jesus

6. Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes - Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets

7. Fouillis d'arcs-en-cieL pour l'Ange qui ann once la fin du Temps - Cluster of rainbows, for the Angel who announces
the end of Time 7:10

8. Louange a l'Immortalite de Jesus - Praise to the Immortality of Jesus



Peter Serkin, Piano

Ida Kavafian, Violin

Fred Sherry, Cello

Richard Stoltzman, Clarinet


Produced by Max Wilcox and Peter Serkin
Recorded in December, 1975.

Recording Engineers: Richard Gardner, Masao Ohno

Mastering Engineer: Ray Hall


Reissue edition digitally remastered by Andre Gauthier, Supervisor; Anthony Salvatore, Engineer


"I saw a mighty angel descending from heaven, clad in mist, having around his head a rainbow. His face was like the sun, his feet like pillars of fire. He placed his right foot on the sea, his left on the earth, and standing thus on the sea and the earth he lifted his hand toward heaven and swore by Him who liveth for ever and ever, saying: 'There shall be time no longer, but at the day of the trumpet of the seventh angel the mystery of God shall be consummated." - REVELATION, X


Conceived and written in the course of my captivity, the Quartet for the End of Time was performed for the first time in Stalag 8-A on January 15, 1941, by Jean Le Boulaire, violinist; Henri Akoka, clarinetist; Etienne Pasquier, cellist, and myself at the piano. It is directly inspired by this excerpt from "The Revelation of St. John." Its musical language is essentially transcendental, spiritual, catholic. Certain modes, realizing melodically and harmonically a kind of tonal ubiquity, draw the listener into a sense of the eternity of space or time. Particular rhythms existing outside the measure contribute importantly toward the banishment of temporalities. (All this is mere striving and childish stammering if one compares it to the overwhelming grandeur of the subject!)


This quartet contains eight movements. Why? Seven is the perfect number, the creation of six days made holy by the divine Sabbath; the seventh in its repose prolongs itself into eternity and becomes the eighth, of unfailing light, of immutable peace.


I. Liturgy of crystal.

Between the morning hours of three and four, the awakening of the birds: a thrush or a nightingale soloist improvises, amid notes of shining sound and a halo of trills that lose themselves high in the trees. Transpose this to the religious plane: you will have the harmonious silence of heaven.


II. Vocalise, for the angel who announces the end of Time.

The first and third parts (very short) evoke the power of that mighty angel, his hair a rainbow and his clothing mist, who places one foot on the sea and one foot on the earth. Between these sections are the ineffable harmonies of heaven. From the piano, soft cascades of blue-orange chords, encircling with their distant carillon the plainchant-Iike recitativo of the violin and cello.


III. Abyss of the birds. Clarinet solo.

The abyss is Time, with its sadnesses and tediums. The birds are the opposite of Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows and for jubilant outpourings of song!


IV. Interlude. Scherzo.

Of a more outgoing character than the other movements but related to them, nonetheless, by various melodic references.


V. Praise to the eternity of Jesus.

Jesus is here considered as one with the Word. A long phrase, infinitely slow, by the cello expatiates with love and reverence on the everlastingness of the Word, mightly and dulcet, "which the years can in no way exhaust." Majestically the melody unfolds itself at a distance both intimate and awesome. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."


VI. Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets.

Rhythmically the most idiosyncratic movement of the set. The four instruments in unison give the effect of gongs and trumpets (the first six trumpets of the Apocalypse attend various catastrophes, the trumpet of the seventh angel announces the consummation of the mystery of God). Use of extended note values, augmented or diminished rhythmic patterns, non-retrogradable rhythms – a systematic use of values which, read from left to right or from right to left, remain the same. Music of stone, formidable sonority; movement as irresistible as steel, as huge blocks of livid fury or icelike frenzy. Listen particularly to the terrifying fortissimo of the theme in augmentation and with change of register of its different notes, toward the end of the piece.


VII. Cluster of rainbows, for the angel who announces the end of Time.

Here certain passages from the second movement return. The mighty angel appears, and in particular the rainbow that envelops him (the rainbow, symbol of peace, of wisdom, of every quiver of luminosity and sound). In my dreamings I hear and see ordered melodies and chords, familiar hues and forms; then, following this transitory stage I pass into the unreal and submit ecstatically to a vortex, a dizzying interpenetration of superhuman sounds and colors. These fiery swords, these rivers of blue-orange lava, these sudden stars: Behold the cluster, behold the rainbows!


VIII. Praise to the immortality of Jesus.

Expansive violin solo balancing the cello solo of the fifth movement. Why this second glorification? It addresses itself more specifically to the second aspect of Jesus – to Jesus the man, to the Word made flesh, raised up immortal from the dead so as to communicate His life to us. It is total love. Its slow rising to a supreme point is the ascension of man toward his God, of the son of God toward his Father, of the mortal newly made divine toward paradise.


 – And I repeat anew what I said above: All this is mere striving and childish stammering if one compares it to the overwhelming grandeur of the subject!


Olivier Messiaen

(Translated from the preface to the score)

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