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Music for the End of Time

Author John Cech
Air Date 1/13/2006

Music for the End of Time Transcript

Brief Sound Clip:

The title of Bryant’s book is borrowed from Messiean’s best-known work, the “Quartet for the End of Time,” which he wrote while in a prison camp for French soldiers captured by the Nazis during World War II. He’d managed to smuggle in his knapsack which his fellow prisoners were all very curious about, thinking it might contain food. But instead it held Messiean’s most prized possessions: his musical scores. A German officer noticed these sheaves of music and, inexplicably, gave Messiean a small desk in a storeroom at which to work. He found an old piano, a cello, a clarinet and a violin — and musicians among his fellow inmates in the camp to play them.

Slowly, his quartet emerged, out of extreme hardship, and inspired by his chance hearing of a nightingale’s song in the woods outside the camp. It was performed for 5,000 prisoners on January 15, 1941, in a cold barracks hall near Gorlitz, Poland. Messiean wrote, he said, because it gave him hope. And we could say the same thing about hearing stories retold and illustrated as skillfully and lovingly as Ms. Bryant’s and Ms. Peck’s.

Brief Sound Clip:

Posted in Music