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Santa Monica Soundwaves Series Presents Messian's 'Quartet for the End of Time'


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By Jorge Casuso

August 14, 2017 -- A famous quartet that received its premiere in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp more than 75 years ago will be performed next month at the Santa Monica Library.

French composer Olivier Messiaen’s 1941 masterpiece,"Quartet for the End of Time," will be performed September 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Main Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium by "in-demand professionals" as part of the monthly Soundwaves concert series.

Messian, a devout Roman Catholic organist and composer, was inspired by the Book of Revelations when he wrote the quartet for violin, clarinet, piano and cello at the age of 31.
Original Quartet for the End of Time poster

Messian originally sketched the piece for three fellow musicians imprisoned in Stalag VIII-A, in Görlitz, Germany, using a small pencil and paper procured from a sympathetic guard. The piece developd into a quartet when Messian added a piano, which he played at the premiere.

Some 400 prisoners and guards attended the first performance in an unheated space on the cold, rainy night of January 15, 1941, with the musicians playing the now-famous score on beat-up instruments.

"Never was I listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension," Messian would later write.

The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross has called the quartet "the most ethereally beautiful music of the twentieth century."

"In the end, Messiaen’s apocalypse has little to do with history and catastrophe," Ross wrote reviewing a performance in 2004.

"(I)nstead, it records the rebirth of an ordinary soul in the grip of extraordinary emotion. Which is why the Quartet is as overpowering now as it was on that frigid night in 1941."

The Santa Monica performance features Jacqueline Suzuki (violin,) James Sullivan (clarinet), Susan Svrcek (piano) and Lynn Angebranndt (cello).

"They came together specifically to perform this beautiful, challenging, and historic piece," concert organizers said, "and they have presented it many times around Southern California."

The monthly Soundwaves series presents artists who appear on the DRAM (Database of Recorded American Music) streaming service. The Santa Monica Library is the first public library to offer this service to its cardholders.

Listings of past and upcoming Soundwaves shows as well as sound and video recordings can be found at

This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-arrival basis.

The Main Library is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 7, R7, R10 and 18 and provides bicycle parking racks.

For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.


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