“Virgin’s First Communion” Pianist Jacqueline Chew
Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a devout and well-respected French Catholic composer. Olivier Messiaen wrote Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus , a collection of pieces for solo piano in 1944. The French title translates “Twenty gazes/contemplations on the infant Jesus”. It is considered to be one of the greatest piano works of the twentieth century, and the summit of Messiaen’s keyboard writing. The idea of les regards, the spiritual gazes, came from the devotional book Le Christ dans ses Mystères by the Irish-Belgian Benedictine Abbot Dom Columba Marmion.
The gaze is a profound moment of passionate contemplation, spiritual communication and two-way recognition: an exchange, to use one of Marmion’s favorite words, in which love and knowledge passed in both directions between God and humanity.
Some of Messiaen’s ‘gazes’ on the Infant Jesus include: Gaze of the Father, Gaze of the Star, The Exchange, Gaze of the Son upon the Son, By Him everything was made, The Kiss of the Infant Jesus, Glance of Silence (click here to see all of the pieces)…the piece that touches on our blog’s theme is: ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge’. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”) and represents the Virgin on her knees, worshiping the unborn Jesus within her.
Olivier Messiaen wrote notes for each of the glances/regards. Here is what he wrote about the Premiere communion de la Vierge:
“Première communion de la Vierge [First Communion of the Virgin]. A tableau in which the Virgin is shown kneeling, bowed down in the night-a luminous halo around her womb. Eyes closed, she adores the fruit hidden within her. This comes between the Annunciation and the Nativity: it is the first and greatest of all communions. Theme of God, gentle scrolls, in stalactites, in an inner embrace. (Recall of the theme of La Vierge l’Enfant from my Nativity du Seigneur for organ, 1935). Magnificat more enthusiastic. Special chords and durations of two and two in which the weighty pulsations represent the heartbeats of the Infant in the breast of his mother. Disappearance of the Theme of God. After the Annunciation, Mary adores Jesus within her…my God, my son, my Magnificat!-my love without the sound of words.”
Here are two links:
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