Nine extraordinary meditations by one of the twentieth century’s musical titans, performed on the magnificent King’s College Chapel organ by former organ scholar Richard Gowers.
Written in 1935, La Nativité du Seigneur is one of Messiaen’s most popular organ works, and a piece that helped to establish the then 27 year-old as an important figure in contemporary music. Premiered in February 1936 at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris, where Messiaen was organist for more than sixty years, the debut performance was shared between three of his close friends; with Daniel-Lesur, Jean Langlais and Jean-Jacques Grunewald each tackling three movements.
A testament to Messiaen’s devout Catholicism, each movement follows a portion of the Christmas story, from the Virgin Birth to Epiphany, with the number of movements symbolic of the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy. Significantly, the work contains early examples of Messiaen’s signature compositional elements, such as birdsong, rhythmic inspiration from Hindustani and Carnatic musical traditions, and the ‘modes of limited transportation’, which he would later publish in La technique de mon langage musical.