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Musical masterpiece on stage at UPEI Sept. 8

Karen Graves, left, violin, Jennifer King, piano, Natalie Williams Calhoun, cello, and, Karem J Simon, clarinet, will present a recital Saturday evening in Charlottetown.
Karen Graves, left, violin, Jennifer King, piano, Natalie Williams Calhoun, cello, and, Karem J Simon, clarinet, will present a recital Saturday evening in Charlottetown. - Contributed

For classical music aficionados, the UPEI Department of Music's Clarinet Spectrum Series will present one of the seminal avant garde works of the 20th century – Olivier Messiaen’s "Quartet for the End of Time" – on Saturday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m., at the Dr. Steel Recital Hall.

Jennifer King, among the most sought-after collaborative pianists in the Maritimes, will join Islanders Karen Graves, violin, Natalie Williams Calhoun, cello, and Karem J. Simon, clarinet, in the presentation of this monumental masterpiece.

The evening will proceed with a brief introduction of the work followed by the performance of this 50-minute piece in its entirety. Admission at the door is $20 for adults and $10 students.

"Quartet for the End of Time" was conceived, composed and premiered while Messiaen was a prisoner of war in a German concentration camp during the Second World War. Messiaen is one of the foremost composers of the 20th century and when they learned that they had a prominent French composer in their midst, several German officers provided him with the materials and space to encourage his composition. Among his fellow prisoners were a violinist, a cellist and a clarinetist. Messiaen being a pianist provides the framework for this piece of music.

Given that Messiaen was a devote catholic and deeply spiritual, he sought biblical text for his inspiration.

"There will be no more Time" is taken from the Book of Revelation. Messiaen was also a bird lover, and throughout this quartet bird song appears frequently.

Written at a time of despair, the message conveyed through the music is one of affirmation. It is remarkable in its purpose and beauty, as its setting occurred during one of the bleakest periods of humanity. During its premier on Jan. 15, 1941, an audience of several hundred POWs, together with many German officers, had a transformative experience with this sublime music.

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