MFKH 2022 headline

Monday, June 6 / 8:00 p.m. / Church of St. John Nepomucene


Olivier Messiaen: 8 Preludes

Piers Lane – piano

Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin: 24 Preludes Op.11

Piers Lane – piano

Scenic lighting according to the composer´s  notes (Messiaen) – Josef Krčil / Jiří Bárta


Two composers embodying distinct cultures yet sharing the same philosophical approach to music as a parade of colour images, set in the mystical ambience of Saint Barbara´s Church. A piano evening with Piers Lane, the most poetic of all poets of piano.



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Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was for over six decades organist at Paris´ Église de la Sainte-Trinité, and not surprisingly, most of his major works are intended for organ. Beyond that, however, Messiaen was also a former versatile child prodigy, as evidenced by his five first prizes from the Paris Conservatory where he enrolled at fifteen. His second published composition was, in 1929, the series of eight Preludes for Piano. The individual preludes bear evident marks of influence by Debussy, even though by then Messiaen had otherwise already embarked on a creative journey of his own, basing his music on what became known as “modes of limited transposition”, or artificially designed scales, which determine not only directions of a melody but also harmonic colouring, and which soon came to assign to Messiaen´s music its uniqueness. Each of the preludes here is marked by very specific associations between sound and colour. In the composer´s own words for instance, the fifth prelude (Les sons impalpables du rêve), has “an orange-blue ostinato on chordal cascades in a purple-mauve mode wherein is inserted the timbre of a brass instrument”.

The emotional content of this music consists in the dichotomy of Love and loss – Messiaen´s mother died at the time of the piece´s writing. He dedicated the piece to a young pianist, Henriette Roget, with whom he was then in love.

Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) wrote suggestive music rooted in late Romantic idioms, and eventually attaining a highly individual style of his own. Its evolution copied the development of the composer´s personality, tending increasingly to metaphysical and theosophical worldviews. Himself a pianist, Scriabin was strongly influenced by the piano music of Frédéric Chopin. In terms of structure, his 24 preludes bear affinity with the approach of the great Polish-French Romantic, encompassing the full scope of major and minor scales. As regards the demands the individual pieces pose on interpretation, the scale here is very wide, ranging from simpler pieces to very difficult ones. Alexander Scriabin may not have been one of those who possess the capacity of synesthesia, that is, who “hear colours”. Unlike most synesthetic models, his approach to colours is primarily conceptual, derived from Isaac Newton´s Optics. It´s exciting to imagine where this concept would point when applied to Scriabin´s imagination. Scriabin was after something that was to become a pioneering multimedia spectacle: his intended yet unrealized opus magnum, entitled Mysterium, was to be a grandiose weeklong spectacle combining music, scents, dance, and light, performed in the Himalayan foothills, whose ultimate aim was to induce the dissolution of the world in a state of beatitude.

                                                                                                                     sleeve-note: Dita Hradecká / translation: Ivan Vomáčka

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