measure (hommage à Messiaen) (2002)

for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, cello

Duration: ca. 8’

Premiere: Ensemble I & D (cond., Dimitris Andrikopoulos), Porto, March 2012

measure:  to define limits; give a countable value to a thing; a unit of poetry.  What a perfectly boundless word to hint at the complexity of the music of the composer Olivier Messiaen.  The dichotomy between Messiaen’s search for the eternal and his fastidious care for the smallest detail of harmony, color or rhythm deserved recognition (however modest) on the tenth anniversary of his death. The overall texture of the work is conceived in two layers, where the winds and strings perform a nearly continuous temporal unfolding of a string of “chords” (or are they a kind of harmonized chant?). Already, this layer alone is a virtuosic study in ensemble balance and sonority.  It is set against a totally independent line where the percussionist joins the pianist in order to create a new instrument, entirely apart (an eternal clock, really). Setting these sublime ideas in chamber music seemed a fitting manner to honor Messiaen’s genius - like one of those little paintings by Rothko that succeeds in spite of its scale.

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