Chant (dans le style Mozart)


Program Note

Description by James Harley
Olivier Messiaen, who had a long career as a composer, also worked an educator. He taught analysis and (eventually) composition at the Paris Conservatoire for over 40 years. While this predilection is not reflected in his music, except perhaps obliquely, Messiaen had a great respect and love for the music of Mozart. In his classes, he analyzed Mozart’s operas, symphonies, and concertos. In 1989, he composed a short orchestral work, Un Sourire (A Smile), for the 1991 Mozart bicentenary celebrations.

In 1986, the Paris Conservatoire asked Messiaen to compose a short work for one of their student competitions. The composer complied with a short work for clarinet and piano. For anyone familiar with Messiaen’s music, this Chant dans le style de Mozart may come as quite a surprise, for it contains none of the characteristics one would expect: the rich harmonies, the birdsong melodies and textures, etc. Instead, the music is tonal, lyrical, a gem of clarity. The phrasing has the songful quality of Mozart’s music. Indeed, there are passages alien to Mozart’s style, such as some doubling of the clarinet and piano, and certain unusual turns of phrase. Nevertheless, the resemblance in style is indeed striking. This piece is a wonderful homage, and may lead listeners to hear Messiaen’s more original music in a different manner.

About Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen, in full Olivier-Eugène-Prosper-Charles Messiaen, (born Dec. 10, 1908, Avignon, France—died April 27, 1992, Clichy, near Paris), influential French composer, organist, and teacher noted for his use of mystical…