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Le merle noir


Le merle noir – The Blackbird – was composed in March 1952 as the test piece for the flute class at the Paris Conservatoire. Messiaen took the opportunity to make an important stylistic departure in this work: it the first of his pieces to attempt a detailed depiction of a specific named bird. The first performances – in June 1952 – were given at the flute concours by the most promising members of Gaston Crunelle’s flute class that year. One of them was the British flautist Alexander Murray, who recently shared his memories of the piece in with the present writer:

We saw it for the first time four weeks before the concours and then dissected it four times a week with Gaston Crunelle. There were four morning classes – normally we each went to two, but as the concourants were the only students remaining after the preliminary (accessit) exam we had the benefit of the week’s quota of lessons. Noël Lee, a pupil of Nadia Boulanger, was our accompanist, and was present daily for the last week. He had analysed the last section and demonstrated the rhythmic permutations – which did not make life easier – however, his utter reliability made memorising less of a problem. We all played from memory … I was awarded a premier prix (I think the first British student to be so lucky) … Messiaen was present in class at least once, as I remember, and of course at the concours.

from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2008


Messiaen: Chamber Works
SIGCD126Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD126 track 10

Recording date
19 February 2008
Recording venue
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Rachel Smith
Recording engineer
Peter Newble
Hyperion usage
  1. Messiaen: Chamber Works (SIGCD126)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: July 2008
    Download only
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