excerpts from Harawi


Program Note

Harawi is a song cycle for soprano and piano, written by Olivier Messiaen in 1945.

Harawi is the first part of Messiaen’s ‘Tristan Trilogy’, preceding the Turangalîla Symphony and the Cinq Rechants (both completed in 1948). The cycle takes its name from the ‘Harawi’ or ‘Yaravi’, a love song genre of Andean music which often ends with the death of the two lovers, thus providing a vehicle from the composer’s exploration of the theme of love-death central to the myth of Tristan and Isolde. These themes are explicitly stated in the work’s subtitle: “Chant d’amour et de mort” (“Song of love and death”). The ideas of love-death may have had a deeper personal significance to Messiaen, whose first wife, Claire Delbos had begun to suffer from mental illness in the years preceding Harawi’s composition. Though the work bears no explicit dedication to Delbos, it is impossible to consider that her condition cannot have been at the forefront of the composer’s mind while working on the cycle.

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…