Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum

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Résurrection des morts. Stained glass, around 1200, in the Sainte-Chapelle

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (And I await the resurrection of the dead) is a work for wind orchestra by Olivier Messiaen, written in 1964 and first performed the following year. It is composed in five movements.


Messiaen was approached in October 1963 by André Malraux, Minister of Cultural Affairs under Charles de Gaulle, with a commission for a sacred work to commemorate the dead of the two World Wars. Originally envisioned as a work for chorus, large orchestra and brass, to be performed in June 1964 at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and at Notre-Dame de Chartres, the concept of the work and projected date of performance for Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum changed several times over the following year. Composition began in early July 1964, while Messiaen was vacationing at the Lac de Petichet in the Hautes-Alpes, and the orchestration was completed early in January 1965 (Hill and Simeone 2005, 257–60).

It was premiered in the Sainte-Chapelle at 11:00 in the morning on 7 May 1965 (Cheong 2004, 115), and was performed for the second time in the morning of 20 June of the same year following a Solemn Mass at Chartres Cathedral and in the presence of President Charles de Gaulle, who warmly congratulated the composer after the performance (Hill and Simeone 2005, 263). Both performances were conducted by Serge Baudo, and the general rehearsal in Chartres on 19 June was filmed for television, later broadcast in the series Les grandes répétitions (Simeone 2010, 195).

The piece was destined to be performed in large spaces like churches, cathedrals and the open air. Messiaen was inspired by the countryside which surrounded him as he worked on the composition – the Hautes-Alpes with their great mountains – but also the imposing images of Gothic and Romanesque churches, and the ancient monuments of Mexico and Ancient Egypt.[citation needed] In his prefaces to the second and third movements, Messiaen also paraphrases passages from "The Resurrection," from the supplement to the third part of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas (Bruhn 2008, 20–21).


The piece is scored for woodwind, brass and percussion sections. The string section of a symphony orchestra is omitted entirely.





  • "Des profondeurs de l'abîme, je crie vers toi, Seigneur: Seigneur, écoute ma voix!"
  • "Le Christ, ressuscité des morts, ne meurt plus; la mort n'a plus sur lui d'empire."
  • "L'heure vient où les morts entendront la voix du Fils de Dieu..."
  • "Ils ressusciteront, glorieux, avec un nom nouveau -- dans le concert joyeux des étoiles et les acclamations des fils du ciel."
  • "Et j'entendis la voix d'une foule immense..."

The piece is 35 minutes long.


Yvonne Loriod, piano (in Couleurs de la cité céleste); Groupe instrumental à percussion de Strasbourg, Orchestre du Domaine Musical, conductor: Pierre Boulez. Erato 2292-45505-2/III ECD 71587, 1966-71. Originally issued on LP, 1967.


  • Bruhn, Siglind. 2008. Messiaen's Interpretation of Holiness and Trinity: Echoes of Medieval Theology in the Oratorio, Organ Meditations, and Opera. Dimension and Diversity: Studies in 20th-Century Music 10, Mark DeVoto, general editor. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-139-5.
  • Cheong, Wai-Ling. 2004. "Composing with Pre-composed Chords in the Finale of Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum". Revue de Musicologie 90, no. 1:115–32.
  • Hill, Peter, and Nigel Simeone. 2005. Messiaen. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10907-5.
  • Simeone, Nigel. 2010. "'Une œuvre simple, solennelle ...': Messiaen's Commission from André Malraux". In Messiaen the Theologian, edited by Andrew Shenton, 185–98. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aubigny, Benoît. 2009. "Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum d'Olivier Messiaen: Perspectives apocalyptiques". In Sept regards sur l’oeuvre d’Olivier Messiaen, edited by Michel Fischer, 43–56. Observatoire Musical Français: Conférences et séminaires, No. 38. Paris: Université de Paris IV [Paris-Sorbonne] (Observatoire Musical Français). ISBN 978-2-84591-166-6.
  • Harper, William Hudson. 1986. "Olivier Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum". PhD diss. Rochester: University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music.
  • Lee, Chi-Kuen (Martin). 2010. "Biblical Narrative and Musical Symbolism in Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum". In Olivier Messiaen: The Centenary Papers, edited by Judith Crispin and Larry Sitsky, 122–57. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-4438-2498-9.
  • Lee, Chi-Kuen (Martin). 2011. "The Charm of Impossibilities: Musical Language, Theology, and Narrative Discourse in Olivier Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum". PhD diss. Buffalo: University of Buffalo, State University of New York.
  • Nelson, David L. 2010. "Stratification of Music and Symbol in the Fourth Movement of Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum". In Olivier Messiaen: The Centenary Papers, edited by Judith Crispin and Larry Sitsky, 205–31. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-4438-2498-9.
  • Renshaw, Jeffrey. 1991. "Olivier Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum: An Interpretive Analysis". The Instrumentalist (November): 28–34.
  • Von Gunden, Heidi Cecilia. 1977. "Timbre as Symbol in Selected Works of Olivier Messiaen". PhD diss. La Jolla: University of California, San Diego.