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Hommage á Messiaen/Colin Andrews
Hommage a Messiaen; La Nativite du Seigneur - Colin Andrews

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Program and Notes Reviews
Hommage à Messiaen
La Nativite du Seigneur
Fisk organ of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Greenville, NC
Colin Andrews, organ

Olivier Messiaen’s French-Catholic mysticism is reflected in his unique musical vocabulary—it forms the basis of one of the most important organ repertoires of the twentieth century. His “Nativity Suite” is one of the most popular of his early organ works, offering musical meditations on the themes and characters of the Christmas story. Also included is the premiere recording of Lionel Rogg’s Hommage à Messiaen.

Acclaimed organist Colin Andrews presents his own musical homage for the centenary of Messiaen’s birth (2008).
Program Notes

Hommage à Messiaen (1992)—Lionel Rogg (b. 1936) (5:26)

La Nativité du Seigneur (1935)—Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
La Vierge et l’enfant (7:11)
Les Bergers (7:01)
Desseins éternels (4:48)
La Verbe (11:45)
Les enfants de Dieu (4:12)
Les Anges (3:41)
Jésus accepte la souffrance (5:03)
Les Mages (7:15)
Dieu parmi nous (9:53)



After finishing his studies at the Geneva Conservatory with Pierre Segond for organ and Nikita Magaloff for piano, organist and composer Lionel Rogg (b. 1936) gave a series of ten recitals at the Victoria Hall, Geneva, performing the complete organ works of Bach. The success of these performances led to the recording of that impressive program. Since that time, Rogg has traveled all over the world performing and recording extensive works by Bach, as well as Buxtehude, Couperin, Clérambault, Grigny, Brahms, Liszt, Reger, and others.

Following his professorship of organ at the Geneva Conservatory, Rogg began composing numerous works for organ, piano, choir, orchestra and chamber instruments. He was commissioned by the city of Geneva to write a concerto for organ and orchestra to mark the 1993 inauguration of the new organ (built by Van den Heuvel) in the Victoria Hall, Geneva. He is now the organist in charge of this instrument.

Hommage à Messiaen (1992)

Written to honor the memory of Messiaen in the year of his death, this brief, beautiful hommage by Rogg speaks Messiaen’s language of the modes of “limited transposition.” These ethereal manual harmonies constantly migrate but never arrive at any particular tonal center, a trait typical in the music of Messiaen. The role of melodic voice is assigned to the pedal part, another device favored greatly by Messiaen, who constantly placed his melodies in the pedal to expand its role beyond that of the lowest voice. The harmonies traverse a landscape of color and tessitura and return from whence they came, providing a backdrop for the sinuous pedal motif. The contours and construction of the pedal melody recall the long, ecstatic lines beloved of Messiaen. Dedicated by Rogg to one of the greatest exponents of Messiaen’s organ music, Dame Gillian Weir, this performance serves as my own homage to both Professor Rogg and Dame Gillian, two of the greatest musical influences in my life.


Born in Avignon to Pierre Messiaen, a Shakespeare scholar, and the poet Cécile Sauvage, Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) exhibited a rare musical talent from an early age. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatory at age eleven, where he won five First Prizes—notably in classes with Marcel Dupré (organ), Maurice Emmanuel (music history), and Paul Dukas (composition). In 1930, he was appointed Organiste Titulaire of Sainte Trinité Church in Paris, a position he held until the early 1970s. At the outbreak of World War II, he became a French army hospital attendant, and in 1941 was taken prisoner and held in a POW camp in Silesia (where he composed Quartet for the End of Time). Upon his repatriation in 1942, he was appointed professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatory. During his lifetime, Messiaen was famed as an organist and pianist and frequently performed his own difficult compositions in concerts around the world.

Although Messiaen’s musical eclecticism incorporated secular influences and the musical vocabulary of other religions, his musical purpose was to express “spiritual truths of the Catholic faith.” Included with the titles of his works are biblical passages alluding to the images and affects he was attempting to evoke in the music (the appropriate citations are contained here).
(The previous two paragraphs are abridged from text by Jonathan Dimmock.)

La Nativité du Seigneur (1935)
(The Birth of the Savior)

The sound world of Olivier Messiaen is indeed unique and draws upon a diverse collection of influences: Norwegian folk song; the impressionistic devices of his colleagues and countrymen, Debussy and Ravel; Gregorian chant, which he encountered on a daily basis during his sixty-one-year tenure as organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris; birdsong; Hindu rhythm; and especially his own deeply-felt Catholic faith. Messiaen also sought to create a new musical language through scales and harmonies of his own invention called modes of “limited transposition.” These scales and harmonies color Messiaen’s music with an individual hue which instantly sets him apart. Musical creativity for Messiaen was, above all, an act of faith, as witnessed by the fact that the majority of his output is based on scriptural references. To quote the composer himself: “The subject Theological? The best, for it comprises all subjects, and the abundance of technical means allows the heart to expand freely.”

La Vierge et l’enfant
(The Virgin and child)

“Conceived of a Virgin, unto us a child is born, for unto us a Son is given. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh unto thee, He is just and lowly.”

In the opening and closing sections of this movement, Messiaen portrays a dimly-lit manger scene and the sense of awe and mystery surrounding the Virgin birth. The central portion of the piece employs staccato chords, a soaring right-hand melody, and a pedal carillon which express the joy inherent in the text.

Les Bergers
(The Shepherds)

“Having seen the child lying in the manger, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.”

The beginning of this movement suggests, through texture and registration, the crunching of feet through snow as the shepherds make their way from the manger scene. There is a pipe call, and then, in the main body of the movement, a feeling of quiet joy projected through the jazzy rhythms and tuneful melismas of the right-hand melodies, which are repeated in mantra-like fashion.

Desseins éternels
(Eternal purposes)

“God, in His love, has predestined us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto Himself, to the praise and the glory of His grace.”

The slow, almost static movement of the harmony and melody in this piece seems to portray the awe we feel at the presence of the divine majesty.

Le Verbe
(The Word)

“The Lord hath said unto me: Thou art my Son. In His bosom, before the dawn existed, He begat me. I am the image of the goodness of God, I am the Word of life, that which was from the beginning.”

The power of the Word being sent to Earth is conveyed through outbursts of thirty-second notes, a powerful descending pedal melody and hypnotic chordal crescendi in the manuals. The slow section of the movement conveys deep reflection and timelessness.

Les enfants de Dieu
(The children of God)

“But as many received Him, the Word gave them the power to become the Sons of God. And because ye are Sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into your hearts crying, Abba! Father!”

This piece is a dance of joy celebrating the spirit of God within us all. Messiaen projects this image through constantly changing staccato chords, which hide a fluctuating, urgent inner rhythm. As if spent by this jubilation, the movement ends in peaceful contemplation.

Les Anges
(The Angels)

“And there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying glory to God in the highest.”

This piece is Messiaen at his most imaginative, inventive, and vivid. Through his use of expanding and contracting rhythms and various manual figurations, he convincingly conjures the sight of angels fluttering their wings, and indulging in aerobatic high jinks before finally disappearing into the heavens.

Jesus accepte la souffrance
(Jesus accepts sorrow) “

Wherefore when He cometh into the world He said unto His Father: ‘Sacrifice and offering you wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me. Lo, I come!’”

The intensity of Jesus’ suffering is conveyed via harmonic and melodic tensions and dissonances as well as rhythmic crescendi. The final measures inexorably release these tensions as Jesus’ spirit rises to meet the Father.

Les Mages
(The Wise Men)

“The wise men departed, and the star went before them.”

This movement is typical Messiaen: long, ecstatic gestures depicting biblical events. In this piece, we hear and visualize the procession of the wise men trudging purposefully through the snow with lanterns swinging, following the distant star through a cloudy night sky. Toward the end of the piece, one can sense the fatigue the wise men would have endured, the huge length of their journey and a vivid feeling of relief as the final destination is reached.

Dieu parmi nous
(God among us)

“Words of the communicant, the Virgin and of the whole church: He who created me has rested in my house, the Word was made flesh and it has dwelt in me. My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

The final movement encapsulates many of Messiaen’s stylistic elements from the Banquet Céleste of 1928 through the Livre d’Orgue of 1951: the use of modes in various transpositions; slow, static passages of great expressivity; melismatic birdsong-like figures; rhythmic complexity based on Hindu models; and toccata figuration akin to typical French works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was Messiaen’s desire to convey, using these devices, an unbridled joy at the presence of God through His Son. The music’s constant movement and virtuosity, plus the work’s rhythmic drive, variety, and impetus, convey a sense of joy, excitement, and of the omnipresence outlined in the scriptural references. The concluding, climactic chordal progression provides a perfect coda to the whole cycle, leaving one with a sense of completion.

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