Olivier Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux : a performer's perspective
This study explores Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-58), a solo piano work which consists of thirteen movements, each of which is inspired by a bird found in France, together with other birdsongs from the same habitat. The complete performance of the Catalogue lasts approximately for 2V2 hours, though individual movements are often chosen to be performed on their own or in groups. It is one of Messiaen's most important works of the 1950s, exhibiting a mature style of birdsong writing which greatly influenced his later work. A key event in the 1950s was Messiaen's meeting (in 1952) with the ornithologist Jacques Delamain, from which he obtained a detailed knowledge of birdsong There are four chapters in this study, while the extensive musical examples can be referred to in Volume II. Messiaen's development of birdsong writing since the 1940s will be discussed in Chapter One, `Introduction'. This includes an explanation of his creative journey while composing the Catalogue, and selected pages of sketches are analysed to identify how the composer transcribed his birdsong writing to the final score. The second chapter is concerned with details of Messiaen's piano writing in the Catalogue, highlighting some of the technical difficulties and in particular the aspect of the fingerings used in the work. Chapter three is the main focus for this study. Five movements from the Catalogue are selected for a performance analysis, including an identification of the different musical and poetic structures, discussion of Messiaen's musical language and of other aspects which aim to assist in a performance of these works. The last chapter is a discussion of interpretative issues where a selection of seven recordings are compared and evaluated. The objective of this final chapter is mainly to explore how pianists interpret these programmatic works, and the different approachesth at can be employed. Since the principal aim of this study is to illuminate issues of performance, the main intention of the analysis is to reveal an understandable and discernable structure in these works and to identify important features of the composer's style of piano writing. Along with the discussion of the Catalogue, earlier works will be explored in order to investigate Messiaen's development of piano writing which in the Catalogue received a whole new dimension from his transcription of birdsongs.