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Messiaen’s Colours

Visualizing the visions of Messiaen’s colours.

The preliminary stage of the project was devoted to a performance of the Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine at the closing concert of a Messiaen festival organised by the group. The musical part of this performance requires a female choir, a string orchestra of a specific size, various percussion instruments including celesta, and, besides the piano solo part, an ondes martenot solo that is essential to the colouring of the piece. Valérie Hartmann-Clavérie played this on the ondes martenot. In addition to playing the piano solo part, Håkon Austbø, the author of this article, undertook the development of colour projections.

The resulting colour part, to be played from an electronic keyboard, was performed at the concert by the pianist Sanae Yoshida. With the collaboration of the Oslo Sinfonietta, conducted by Christian Eggen, and the Norwegian Soloist Choir with conductor Grete Pedersen, an ensemble of students and professionals was put together. This turned out to be the first performance of this piece in Norway and took place at the Norwegian Academy on 28 February 2013.

The project was ultimately aimed at realizing a colour part for the gigantic piano cycle Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus. This cycle was performed on 10 August 2013, at the Jakob church in Oslo, in the framework of the Oslo International Chamber Music Festival. Again, Håkon Austbø played the piano and prepared the colour part, which was again performed by Sanae Yoshida. During the whole project, Ricardo del Pozo provided expertise on the software environment as well as on the artistic content.

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Published: Aug 6, 2014 — Last updated: Apr 23, 2021