Messiaen’s 'Quartet for the End of Time' ushers in the end times at Timucua


The original program, with official Stalag VIIIA approval stamp.
  • The original program, with official Stalag VIIIA approval stamp.
Feeling just a touch apocalyptic these days? Got Holocaust on the brain, after observing our White House press secretary repeatedly attempt to whitewash it out of history? Perhaps a piece of music written “in homage to the Angel of the Apocalypse, who lifts his hand toward heaven, saying, ‘There shall be time no longer’” would fit the mood.

The thing is, Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, while written and performed under the most brutal conditions imaginable, is not the violent or tragic music you might imagine. Messiaen composed the Quartet after being captured as a French soldier during the German invasion of 1940 and premiered it in January 1941, at a prisoner-of-war camp. In an unheated barracks, before an audience of prisoners and German officers, some of the gentlest, most serene, and most deeply weird sounds of the 20th century were born into the frigid air. The instruments available were, predictably, far from perfect – Messiaen composed around the cello’s missing string and the stuck key on the piano. None of it mattered. The Quartet’s sublime movements play with time and rhythm, refusing to be constrained by convention, denying time’s supremacy. Messiaen’s mediation on the phrase “There shall be time no longer” could imply the end of the world – or it could mean a liberation from time’s tick-tock altogether. Come listen and decide for yourself.

7 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 | Timucua Arts White House, 2000 S. Summerlin Ave. | | $20