Éclairs sur l'au-delà...

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Éclairs sur l'au-delà… ("Illuminations [literally "flashes of lightning'"] of the beyond…") is an orchestral piece by the French composer Olivier Messiaen. Composed in 1987–91, it was his last completed work.[1] Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for their 150th anniversary in 1992, it was first performed by them, conducted by Zubin Mehta, at Lincoln Center on 5 November of that year, just over six months after the composer's death.[citation needed]

The composition incorporates such favorite Messiaen techniques as his modes of limited transposition and the transcription of birdsong. Its expression of theological ideas from the Roman Catholic faith, and its often ecstatic intention, are also characteristic of its composer.[citation needed]

The work incorporates birdsong from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Singapore. Messiaen's sole visit to Australia was during that country's bicentennial celebrations in 1988, during the period he was writing the work. Although earlier works (for example, Saint Francis of Assisi) had included Australian birdsong, Éclairs sur l'au-delà... is the only work of Messiaen's that uses the sounds of Australian birds he notated in the wild.[citation needed]

Lasting approximately an hour, the piece is divided into 11 movements.

  1. Apparition du Christ glorieux ("Apparition of Christ in glory")
  2. La Constellation du Sagittaire ("Constellation of Sagittarius")
  3. L’Oiseau-lyre et la Ville-fiancée ("The Lyrebird and the Bridal City")
  4. Les Élus marqués du sceau ("The Elect marked with the seal")
  5. Demeurer dans l’Amour... ("Abiding in Love")
  6. Les Sept Anges aux sept trompettes ("The Seven Angels with seven trumpets")
  7. Et Dieu essuiera tout larme de leurs yeux... ("And God shall wipe every tear from their eyes...")
  8. Les Étoiles et la Gloire ("The Stars and Glory")
  9. Plusieurs oiseaux des arbres de Vie ("Many birds of the trees of Life")
  10. Le Chemin de l’Invisible ("The Way of the Invisible")
  11. Le Christ, lumière du Paradis ("Christ, light of Paradise")

Instrumentation[edit]

The work is scored for a very large orchestra consisting of the following:

I. first player of tubular bells
II. second player of tubular bells
III. third player of tubular bells
IV. 3 triangles
V. wind machine, bass drum, second triangle
VI. wood block, 6 temple blocks, réco-réco, third triangle,
VII. 3 high gongs, whip,
VIII. small suspended cymbal, suspended cymbal, large suspended cymbal
IX. 3 large gongs, bass drum
X. small tamtam, tamtam, very large tamtam

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Messiaen's last work, Concert à quatre, was left among his papers, and was completed by Yvonne Loriod and George Benjamin.[citation needed]