Amici Chamber Ensemble


“No one should be allowed to make music as if he were made of wood. One must reproduce the musical text exactly, but not play like a stone.” -Olivier Messiaen

Amici’s good friend Jonathan Crow, is our our guest violinist and host for our upcoming concert Messiaenic Revelations – April 30, 3pm

Jonathan’s thoughts on Quartet for the End of Time:

jonathan-crowCompositionally, what is the most interesting aspect of the piece for you? “For me I find the structure of the piece very interesting- the way Messaien uses different combinations of instruments for the different effects that he wants to achieve, from strong dramatic music for the full ensemble to a lonely clarinet in the third movement. It’s brilliant that way he creates such atmosphere from only 4 instruments.”

Would you advise listeners to prepare before listening to Quartet for the End of time? How so? “Absolutely! As a piece of music the Quartet absolutely stands alone, but knowing Messaien’s inspirations and how he viewed composition helps to give a more three-dimensional experience when listening to the work, and perhaps helps the listener to understand it just a little bit more easily…”

How does this differ from playing other works by Messiaen? “I’ve played many of the orchestral works of Messaien, and I actually find this very similar. He’s always trying to create variety between strength and intimacy- IMO looking for something quite religious, and creating in his music the many forms of how he views his faith. These range from  the incredible power and fury of the Old Testament, to the more accessible and almost human aspects of Jesus in the New Testament. In this piece the small chamber scale make it possible  to find this intimacy perhaps a little more easily than in a work for full orchestra.”

How do the extraordinary circumstances of this work’s composition inform your performance? “The most amazing aspect of this piece is how well it works apart from its unusual creation- I think the piece stands alone as a great piece of music! However, it is always useful in all music to know where the composer is coming from, and I think the story of how this piece came to be gives us even more information about how we should be thinking of the music and where Messaien was finding his inspiration.”

Etienne Pasquier, the cellist who premiered Quartet for the End of Time, once said he had to “acquire a new technique” to play the piece. Having played the piece, do you have some insight on what he meant by this? “This I actually don’t know! There is an urban legend that he played on only three strings, but this has been debunked… There are all kinds of myths about the first performance of this piece- including some exaggerations by Messaien himself though- claims of a melted clarinet key, snow falling on the performers… Many of which are not true, but add to the legend.”

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