John Slack clarinet
Eva Thorarinsdottir violin
Tim Lowe cello
Libby Burgess piano
Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time
The south window of the south transept of Beverley Minster contains stained glass symbolising ‘the Age-Long Conflict between Good and Evil’; this aptly describes the philosophical subject matter of Messiaen’s profoundly spiritual Quartet for the End of Time. Written while he was a prisoner of war in German captivity, the piece was premiered outdoors by Messiaen and his fellow prisoners using the instruments they could lay their hands on, in freezing temperatures, to a rapt audience of hundreds of inmates. ‘Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension,’ the composer later wrote.
The music combines the exotic dance rhythms and birdsong which permeate so much of his music with astonishing depictions of radiant eternity, inspired by the Biblical book of Revelation: pianist Steven Osborne concludes that the work ‘offers a stark juxtaposition between the destructive and creative potentials of humanity, a struggle we all embody to some degree’.