1. Faust & Tristan

The ninety years between the births of these two French composers – Charles Gounod (1818-1893, left) and Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992, right) – was a period of significant change for French music (and, indeed, all music and the world in general). Gounod was born nine years before the death of Beethoven and four years after the defeat of Napoleon; Messiaen ten years before the death of Debussy and six years before the start of the First World War.

Despite this obvious temporal disparity, the two composers’ profiles are, in some ways, remarkably similar. Both were profoundly religious men – most of their musical output reflects this, being composed on or around religious/liturgical subjects. Both, however, have a strong sensual element in their works which finds overt expression for Gounod in his operas, and for Messiaen it manifests itself in the tryptic of pieces mentioned below.

The Turangalîla symphony was written in 1948, commissioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra by Serge Koussevitzsky. It forms the largest part of a cycle of three works centred around the Tristan and Isolde legend, the other two being the song cycle Harawi and the Cinq rechants for a capella choir.

Olivier Messiaen:

I. Introduction 0:00:48
II. Chant d’amour 1 0:07:31
III. Turangalîla 1 0:15:58
IV. Chant d’amour 2 0:21:30
V. Joie du sang des étoiles 0:32:56
VI. Jardin du sommeil d’amour 0:39:53
VII. Turangalîla 2 0:52:02
VIII. Développement de l’amour 0:55:45
IX. Turangalîla 3 1:07:25
X. Final 1:12:38

Gounod’s most famous composition is incontestably his opera Faust (you can hear the final trio of the work below). But his secular works also include three symphonies, the last of which – written for a much reduced ensemble of nine wind instruments – is very Gallic, very jolly and seems to prefigure the music of 1920s Paris and Les Six.

Faust, Act V, Final trio

Petite Symphonie

01:44 Adagio et Allegretto
07:24 Andante Cantabile
12:46 Scherzo
17:34 Finale -Allegretto

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