Quartet for the End of Time

A global pandemic, protests that one hopes will galvanize systemic changes and encourage conversations so long overdue, a world in flux...It may seem like the end of time as we know it.

In 1940 in a Nazi prison camp in Poland, Olivier Messiaen composed and, with three fellow prisoners, performed "Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps" ("Quartet for the End of Time"), his musical response to and reflection on his world in flux.  He wrote, "I am convinced that joy exists...joy is beyond sorrow, beauty beyond horror."

I have listened to this composition many times, and was recently moved to send for the score in order to explore it and gain a deeper understanding of it.  With considerable practice, I could probably deliver a passable amateur performance of the challenging piano part.  But two of the movements -- V. and VIII., both transcendent in beauty -- are readily "playable."  So while listening to the recording, I have played along with the cello in the first movement and the violin in the other.  This has been a musical meditation for me - a brief and welcome respite from the noise of the world...the kind of mindful pause that music engenders.

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