French composer and organist
Olivier Messiaen is one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He was born on December 10, 1908 in Avignon. His father Pierre Messiaen was an English professor who translated the works of William Shakespeare into French. In his youth Olivier Messiaen read Shakespeare’s works in translation. His fascination with Shakespeare’s depiction of human passion and with his magical world also influenced the composers later works.
From 1919 until 1930 he studied at the Conservatoire de Paris. During his studies he was awarded several prizes. In 1931, Messiaen became organist at the Parisian church Saint-Trinité where he would remain organist for more than sixty years. At the outbreak of World War II Messiaen was called up into the French army, as a medical auxiliary rather than an active combatant due to his poor eyesight. In May 1940 he was captured at Verdun. Shortly after his return to Paris in 1941, Messiaen was appointed professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatoire, where he taught until his retirement in 1978. The composer died in 1992 in Paris, shortly before the second performance of his work Saint François d’Assise at the Salzburg Festival.
Many of his works have been published at the Parisian publishing house Alphonse Leduc.
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