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Visions of Amen
The Early Life and Music of Olivier Messiaen
HARDCOVER; Published: 7/10/2014
ISBN: 978-0-8028-0762-5
Price: $ 50.00
594 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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Informed study of composer Olivier Messiaen in light of recent research

French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908- 1992) is probably best known for his Quartet for the End of Time, premiered in a German prisoner-of-war camp in 1941. However, Messiaen was a remarkably complex, intelligent person with a sometimes tragic domestic life who composed a wide range of music. This book explores the enormous web of influences in the early part of Messiaen's long life.

The first section of the book provides an intellectual biography of Messiaen's early life in order to make his (difficult) music more accessible to the general listener. The second section offers an analysis of and thematic commentaries on Messiaen's pivotal work for two pianos, Visions of Amen, composed in 1943. Schloesser's analysis includes timing indications corresponding to a downloadable performance of the work by accomplished pianists Stéphane Lemelin and Hyesook Kim.
Andrew Shenton
— Boston University
"In this erudite and well-researched book Stephen Schloesser presents a detailed and engaging portrait of composer Olivier Messiaen, whose individual voice dominated much of the twentieth century. In addition to offering new insights into Messiaen as rhythmician, surrealist, synesthete, ornithologist, and theologian, Schloesser uncovers topics that deepen our understanding of this complex and colorful character. . . . Combining rich theological assessment with penetrating musical analysis, this work is essential reading."
James David Christie
— College of the Holy Cross
"Fascinating. . . . Schloesser has done an admirable job of presenting his material on Messiaen in a concise, flowing, and passionate manner — you just don't want to put this book down!"
Jane Fulcher
— University of Michigan
"Schloesser offers a new, insightful, and valuable perspective on Messiaen's family background, training, and experience. . . . Delving more deeply than previous studies into the composer's changing circle of influences, this work provides a detailed portrait of Messiaen the man, the thinker, and the artist within the rapidly shifting French political, cultural, and musical world of his time."
Vincent P. Benitez
— Pennsylvania State University
"An insightful and compelling narrative about Olivier Messiaen's early life and work. Schloesser investigates Messiaen's intriguing 'ultra-Catholic avant-gardism' to uncover what might have influenced the composer as he created his early pieces, leading readers to a greater appreciation of Messiaen's later works. . . . Schloesser's Visions of Amen will become essential reading for any scholar researching this great musical figure of the twentieth century."
Olivier Latry
— Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
"One might think that everything has already been said and written about Olivier Messiaen. But this book gives us access to another dimension: Stephen Schloesser ably places us amid Messiaen's entire musical creation, describing his life, his educational and musical formation, his faith, his philosophy of time, his synesthesia, his interests, and his research. . . . An indispensable book for all who are interested in the personality, the work, and the spiritual musical message of Olivier Messiaen."
Robert Sholl
— Royal Academy of Music
"Schloesser deftly wields biographical, philosophical, theological, and musical sources to create this rich intellectual tapestry. What emerges from his fertile and imaginative study is a fine-grained image of Messiaen's originality that illuminates the question Who are you, Olivier Messiaen?"
Living Church
"A major achievement. It provides invaluable research and insight for any reader curious about what motivated Messiaen's complex musical and theological thought. Many of its ideas will reveal new ways of listening to the composer's music. The book shows that just as Messiaen's music layers part into a dense, multicolored collage, it also overlays multiple extramusical and theological associations."
Catholic Library World
"An extremely valuable and perhaps even essential work for anyone seeking to understand and appreciate the life and work of Messiaen."
Church Times
"This book is a welcome addition to the several existing biographies of Oliver Messiaen. The coverage of Messiaen's early career is not only detailed but also absorbing reading, and the decision to publish in association with a recording considerably enhances the reader's appreciation and understanding of the tangled web of influences that underpin this seminal work."
Christian Century
"Visions of Amen offers much worthwhile insight for anyone willing to navigate, as Schloesser does, the stunning multidimensionality of Messiaen's life and work."
"Schloesser is at his best here, responsive to a wide range of literary, musical, theological and secondary source material."
The American Organist
"Indeed, no one, after reading this book, is likely to willy-nilly confuse or conflate theology, spirituality, and mysticism. Nor is any reader likely to minimize the significance of Messiaen's religious beliefs or his theological statements concerning his own music. . . . This book brings Olivier Messiaen and his earlier compositions vividly to life by relentlessly investigating and repeatedly demonstrating the importance of the 'paradoxical and seemingly unique ultra-Catholic avant-gardism' that characterizes both the man and his music."
Musical Times
"The widely read Professor Schloesser presents a vertiginous range of disparate texts in connection with the music, much of them undeniably of intrinsic interest and often illuminating. . . . Ultimately everything stands or falls by the quality of the music itself, that for many committed admirers like myself provides a complete aesthetic experience. . . . Visions of Amen has undeniably enriched and deepened my own experience of it."