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Ian Scarfe presents Olivier Messiaen's "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus"

405 Shrader

405 Shrader Ian Scarfe presents Olivier Messiaen's

"L'Amour Mystique"
Ian Scarfe, piano
performs music from Olivier Messiaen's "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus"
(Twenty Contemplations of the Infant Jesus)

This is one of the most mind-bending and unique works of "Christmas Music" you may ever experience.

One of the great masterpieces in modernist piano music, Messiaen's "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus" is a collection of hypnotic, hallucinatory, ecstatic visions of the Nativity - the strange and wonderful story of God becoming human in the form of Jesus Christ. The twenty visions, or "Contemplations", covers an enormous range of ideas, from characters in the story: God-the-Father, the Virgin Mary, shepherds, prophets, and angles; to symbols such as the Star, the Cross, the heavens, to more abstract ideas such as "silence", "the spirit of joy", "time", and the entire mystery of transubstantiation, of God-becoming-human.
Messiaen's music is utterly unique, and takes its shape from blending a variety of styles, the colorful virtuosity of French impressionism, mathematical rhythmic cycles, precisely notated birdsong, Hindu ragas, Balinese gamelan, and pure sound-color. The latter is especially important, as Messiaen was synesthetic - his brain mixed perceptions of sound and color, so music to him was indeed an ever-changing visual tapestry of colors. Written in Paris in 1944, while under Nazi occupation, this music represents Messiaen turning toward his faith to inspire him during one of the greatest crises in the modern world.
This concert will feature an hour-long set of selections from this monumental work, including a detailed translation of Messiaen's visions, and explanations of his music.

"As a classical pianist, it is rare to be able to present music like this." says Scarfe. "Messiaen's music is extreme - I think that is what always attracted me to it. It is extreme in every direction: it can be the most calming and contemplative in its simplicity, but then later be absolutely mind-numbing in its complexity. It requires the most intensely soft and colorful playing, and then later outbursts of pure cacophony and ecstasy. One of the things he writes into his music often, 'avec amour' ('with love'), always guides me through the challenges of this music."

"I have sought here a language of mystical love, at once varied, powerful, and tender, sometimes brutal, in multicolored arrangements.” - Olivier Messiaen

  • Venue: 405 Shrader
  • Date: Fri December 8, 2017 7:00pm
  • City: San Francisco
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Price Range: $20 - $50
  • Tickets: 415-730-4910

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Olivier Messiaen

Selections from "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus"


Ian Scarfe