Louange a l’eternite de Jesus

Louange à l’eternité de Jesus is a little pearl from Oliver Messiaen. Today we know it as a part of the Quatuor pour la fin du temps, written for piano and cello, but this piece had another name: Oraison. It was designed for very special instruments: a martenot wave ensemble (ensemble d’onde martenot), an analogue synthesizer invented by Martenot. This instrument is characterized by a sound that seems to come from another reality: there is no attack in the sound, the end is only a nuance, the sound consistency is constant, it never falls and never ends; it is the perfect instrument for a piece whose title means prayer. In Quatuor, Messiaen, while in a German concentration camp, wanted to insert this piece without any modification in the score, but with two different instruments. While the cello can imitate and be a great substitute for the martenot wave, the piano instead creates a completely different environment: instead of long and timeless notes it plays slow chords, repeated and constant over time. This creates a kind of relentless rhythm, which to be such requires great skill and concentration on the part of the performer. The harp can be perfectly introduced into this transformation. The whole piece, in fact, can be performed using enharmonics in the low strings, so instead of the piano repetitions, where the attack of the sound is inevitable, we will have a chase of different strings that generate the same sound. Each string will hide its attack in the sound of the previous one and will cover that of the next, imitating an ineluctable soundtrack. The harp becomes a connecting bridge towards the martenot wave, thanks to the powerful and long sound of the low notes and the ability to never repeat the same string with the cello it creates a sublime combination at the service of introspection and meditation that this piece arouses.

I worked starting from the score for piano and cello, using the enharmonics both to create that link with the sound of the martenot wave I was talking about, and to enhance some chords in the crescendos that needed more sound power.