Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, August 5

Of Mountains and Messiaen

Synopsis

The gourmet composer Gioachino Rossini had a beef dish, Tournedos Rossini, named after him, and over the centuries countless towns have honored their native composers by naming streets after them — but few can top the honor bestowed on the late Olivier Messiaen by the citizens of Parowan, Utah. They named a mountain after him.

On today's date in 1978, the citizens of Parowan resolved to name a local mountain Mt. Messiaen in honor of the French composer, who had spent a month in Utah five years earlier while working on his symphonic suite titled "From the Canyons to the Stars."

Messiaen had been commissioned to write a work for the American Bicentennial in 1976. Apparently back in France he owned of a series of books titled "Wonders of the World," which included striking color pictures of the canyons of Utah, which so fired Messiaen's imagination that he made a special pilgrimage to Bryce Canyon in Utah see them with his own eyes. The result was an orchestra score titled "From the Canyons to the Stars," which includes a movement titled "Bryce Canyon and the Red-orange rocks."

"Colors are very important to me," Messiaen once said. "I have a gift — it's not my fault, it's just how I am — whenever I hear music or even if I read music, I see colors. The colors do just what the sounds do: they are always changing, but they are marvelous."

Music Played in Today's Program

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) Bryce Canyon and the Red-Orange Rocks, fr From the Canyons to the Stars London Sinfonietta; Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond CBS/Sony 44762

Additional Information

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