The title is surprising. There exists very little truly comic music, and my music is not at all humorous. In 1932, my old classmates from Paul Dukas’s composition class found me too serious, too contemplative: they thought I didn’t know how to laugh. I wanted to prove them wrong … and failed to do so. In this unduly traditional ABA piece, the first and third parts are meant to be comical (without succeeding). The middle section is the best: there are many things there which foreshadow the colours of chords and the rhythms in my later works.
The contemporary press judged the work more generously. In Le Ménestrel (17 February) Marcel Belvianes wrote that ‘this Fantaisie has a clownish motif […] which appears at the start and comes back at the end. At the centre of the piece, a much more tender motif unfolds. M. Olivier Messiaen certainly has a sense of colour and lacks nothing in ideas, nor in amusing techniques to give them form. His success was all the greater since he had the great pianist Robert Casadesus as his interpreter.’
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2004