“Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus” – Olivier Messiaen‏

by richibi

Giotto - "Nativity" (1311-1320)

Nativity (c. 1311)



just in time for C***mas, a sublime
piece on the Nativity of Christ as
profound, dare I say, as any High,
or even Midnight, Mass

Olivier Messiaen, one of, to my mind,
the greatest composers of the XXth
Century, was also a devout Catholic,
the organist at the Église de la Sainte
in Paris, his music is imbued
with Catholic sentiment, the idea of

he seems to me a reincarnation, nearly,
of the great organist at the Augustinian
monastery of Sankt Florian
in Upper
Austria, Anton Bruckner, no other
composers, after Bach, have been so
inspired specifically by their religious

Bruckner builds cathedrals with his
music, notably out of his eleven

Messiaen, a century later, performs,
instead, sacraments, attends to the
intricacies of their consecrations

Vingt regards sur l’Enfant Jésus is
a succession of twenty perspectives
upon the child Jesus, linked by their
intention rather than by a common
musical theme, as would be the case
in a set of variations, the only other
form that would contain so many

it is atonal, arhythmic, and does not
present the evident repetitions that
Classically would have given the
music a sense of structure, it seems
to me to be trying rather to describe
the iridescence of starlight, the
majesty of the enveloping night,
the gathering, and worshipful
confederation, of the host angels



the 20 movements –

1. Regard du Père (“Contemplation of the Father”)
2. Regard de l’étoile (“Contemplation of the star”)
3. L’échange (“The exchange”)
4. Regard de la Vierge (“Contemplation of the Virgin”)
5. Regard du Fils sur le Fils (“Contemplation of the Son upon the Son”)
6. Par Lui tout a été fait (“Through Him everything was made”)
7. Regard de la Croix (“Contemplation of the Cross”)
8. Regard des hauteurs (“Contemplation of the heights”)
9. Regard du temps (“Contemplation of time”)
10. Regard de l’Esprit de joie (“Contemplation of the joyful Spirit”)
11. Première communion de la Vierge (“The Virgin’s first communion”)
12. La parole toute-puissante (“The all-powerful word”)
13. Noël (“Christmas”)
14. Regard des Anges (“Contemplation of the Angels”)
15. Le baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus (“The kiss of the Infant Jesus”)
16. Regard des prophètes, des bergers et des Mages (“Contemplation of the prophets, the shepherds and the Magi”)
17. Regard du silence (“Contemplation of silence”)
18. Regard de l’Onction terrible (“Contemplation of the awesome Anointing”)
19. Je dors, mais mon cœur veille (“I sleep, but my heart keeps watch”)
20. Regard de l’Église d’amour (“Contemplation of the Church of love”)