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Catch Messiaen’s great organ work ‘meditations’ at St Michael’s

07 December, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Canterbury Cathedral stained glass. PHOTO: Mattana

THERE’S an opportunity to hear Olivier Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur, one of the great organ works of all time, at St Michael’s, South Grove, Highgate, this Saturday evening.

The piece is being played by organ virtuoso Paul Dean, director of music at St Michael’s and deputy director of music at The Hall School, Hampstead.

Messiaen composed the work in 1935 in Grenoble, France, when he was 27. He wrote that, in addition to theology, the work was inspired by the mountains around Grenoble and as well as the stained glass windows in medieval cathedrals.

The piece is a testament to Messiaen’s Christian faith, being divided into nine “meditations” inspired by the birth of Jesus.

The work includes key features of his later compositions such as birdsong, rhythms of Ancient Greece and traditional Indian music.

One noted American composer-conductor Richard Franko Goldman wrote that “one is, indeed, tempted to say that the work is a masterpiece, one of the great organ works of all time. It is certainly monumental and impressive, original and memorable.”

• Oliver Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur: organist Paul Dean, St Michael’s, South Grove, Highgate, 6pm, free, http://www.londonorgan.co.uk/st-michael-s-highgate.html

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