Pierre-Laurent Aimard I

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Late Night at the Philharmonie

In his “Catalogue d’Oiseaux”, Olivier Messiaen discovered new sound worlds for the piano. During a long night at the Philharmonie, Pierre-Laurent Aimard will bring this compendium of birdsong, which – according to Messiaen – is at the beginning of all music, to life.

Ludwig Koch, Songs of Wild Birds, Sound Book, Cover, 1936

Ludwig Koch, “Songs of Wild Birds”, sound book, cover, 1936

© British Library Sound Archive

  • 3 h 30 min

Past Dates

The eves of great events have an atmosphere of their very own – and Musikfest Berlin is eager to cultivate this original cultural experience. Before the festival’s opening with a performance of Hector Berlioz’ artists’ opera “Benvenuto Cellini”, Pierre-Laurent Aimard will explore the work of another French composer, one who caused a similarly controversial impact in his own time, more than a hundred years later. In the late 1950s, Olivier Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’oiseaux” gave a clear indication of where the composer’s path was leading him: neither in the direction of serial organisation nor towards electronic experimentation, but back (or rather: forwards) to nature, “where so much already exists, but we have not been listening. We speak of keys and modes – the birds have them. We speak of separation into small intervals – the birds do it. Since Wagner, we have been speaking a great deal about leitmotifs – every bird is a living leitmotif. We speak of aleatory music: the birds’ awakening is an aleatory occasion. I chose the birds, others chose synthesizers.”

The 13 pieces of the “Catalogue”, bracketed together in seven books (Messiaen was fascinated by prime numbers), form a compendium of composition and piano playing, similar to Bach’s “Well-tempered Clavier”. Each piece revolves around one bird and its song which provides the basic key. At the same time, the “Catalogue” is a work of acknowledgement. Messiaen dedicated it to his “winged paragons” and the pianist Yvonne Loriod, who was to become his second wife.

Concert Programme

Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992)
Catalogue d’Oiseaux for piano (1956 – 1958)

Livre I
1. Le Chocard des Alpes
2. Le Loriot
3. Le Merle bleu

Livre II

4. Le Traquet Stapazin

Livre III
5. La Couette Hulotte
6. L’Alouette lulu

Livre IV
7. La Rousserolle Effarvatte

Livre V
8. L’Aouette Calandrelle
9. La Bouscarle

Livre VI
10. Le Merle de roche

Livre VII
11. La Buse variable
12. Le Traquet rieur
13. Le Courlis cendré

A Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin event