Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time

“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire … and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth …. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever and ever … that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished ….”

Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is one of the most transcendental and powerful pieces ever to have been written.  It is an undoubted masterpiece.  Written in Stalag VIII, a German prisoner of war camp in 1941.  Endymion has performed this piece many, many times, and although it can be paired with other works such as Debussy or Brahms, it often works better performed alone, or perhaps prefaced with readings or poetry.  After our most recent performance of this piece in a late-night concert in London, one audience member came to thank us; she had been moved to floods of tears.

Total time: 55 minutes, 4 players.