Distinguished Jesuit historian Fr. Stephen Schloesser to speak at Fairfield University about the young life of the great composer Olivier Messiaen

Distinguished Jesuit historian Fr. Stephen Schloesser to speak at Fairfield University about the young life of the great composer Olivier Messiaen

Image: Rev Schloesser The Rev. Stephen Schloesser, S.J., will discuss the early years of Olivier Messiaen, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, when he delivers Fairfield University's Bellarmine Lecture on Wednesday, February 1. This "concert lecture," free and open to the public, will feature a gripping story of love and love lost, interspersed with songs for soprano and piano. Works to be performed include Messiaen's "The Smile," and "La Fiancee perdue," from his "Three Melodies," "Action de Grace," and "Priere exaucee," as well as two songs by his wife at the time, Claire Delbos.

The event, presented by the University's Center for Catholic Studies, will take place in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola at 8 p.m.

In a talk entitled, "Olivier Messiaen: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Fr. Schloesser, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, will chronicle the young life of this artist who was greatly inspired by his Catholic beliefs. He will start by exploring Messiaen's parents, especially his mother Cecile Sauvage and her poetry, punctuating the talk with Messiaen's compositions while emphasizing the evolution in his writing. The lecture will provide attendees with an intricate look at Messiaen, his mother, and his wife Claire, and how their relationships so deeply affected the composer's early works.

The presentation will feature songs written when Messiaen was just 22 years old in 1930 and graduating from the Paris Conservatory. Two life-changing events happened at this time: his mother died and a woman rejected his hand in marriage. Also to be discussed is Messiaen's marriage in 1932 to Delbos. She suffered multiple miscarriages. It took a severe toll on her both physically and mentally. Around this time, Messiaen wrote his great "Nativity" suite for the organ, about childbearing - and the impossibility of it, seemingly, for this couple.

The New York Times called the late Messiaen (1908-1992) one of the most important French composers, singling out his "Apparition de l'Eglise Eternelle" (1932) and "Nativite du Seigneur" (1935) as centerpieces of the contemporary organ literature. "Mr. Messiaen was a prolific and distinctive composer who sought to capture in music both the beauty of the natural world and the spiritual secrets of Roman Catholic mysticism."

According to a website devoted to the composer, Messiaen created his own "modes of limited transposition," taking rhythmic ideas from India (deci tala), ancient Greece and the Orient and most importantly adapting the songs of birds from around the world.

Educated at Stanford, Fr. Schloesser has explored such intriguing subjects as Jazz Age Catholicism and Mystic Surrealism as Contemplative Voluptuousness. He was a faculty member of Boston College, a Bannan Fellow at Santa Clara University, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Church History at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

The Bellarmine Lecture series was set up to bring distinguished Jesuit Scholars in a variety of disciplines to Fairfield. For information on other Center for Catholic Studies events, visit http://www.fairfield.edu/cs/ .

Posted On: 01-17-2012 11:01 AM

Volume: 44 Number: 168