The eves of great events have an atmosphere of their very own – and Musikfest Berlin is eager to cultivate this original cultural experience. Before the festival’s opening with a performance of Hector Berlioz’ artists’ opera “Benvenuto Cellini”, Pierre-Laurent Aimard will explore the work of another French composer, one who caused a similarly controversial impact in his own time, more than a hundred years later. In the late 1950s, Olivier Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’oiseaux” gave a clear indication of where the composer’s path was leading him: neither in the direction of serial organisation nor towards electronic experimentation, but back (or rather: forwards) to nature, “where so much already exists, but we have not been listening. We speak of keys and modes – the birds have them. We speak of separation into small intervals – the birds do it. Since Wagner, we have been speaking a great deal about leitmotifs – every bird is a living leitmotif. We speak of aleatory music: the birds’ awakening is an aleatory occasion. I chose the birds, others chose synthesizers.”
The 13 pieces of the “Catalogue”, bracketed together in seven books (Messiaen was fascinated by prime numbers), form a compendium of composition and piano playing, similar to Bach’s “Well-tempered Clavier”. Each piece revolves around one bird and its song which provides the basic key. At the same time, the “Catalogue” is a work of acknowledgement. Messiaen dedicated it to his “winged paragons” and the pianist Yvonne Loriod, who was to become his second wife.
- Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Catalogue d’oiseaux for piano
A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event