St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Evening of Organ Music

Olivier Messiaen
Livre du Saint Sacrement

… Unlike the normal organ sound of European churches, at the Mariinsky hall the sound doesn’t mix and reverberate under vaulted ceilings, retaining its purity and clarity with each and every tone.


This is an instrument that will last a century at least. Engineers have appraised the construction and the delicate electronic innards, while music lovers have appraised the pure, gentle sound and universal coverage. And children in the audience have tugged at their parents’ sleeves and whispered “It’s so beautiful!”
Kultura TV

Organ Disposition >>

Olivier Messiaen. Livre du Saint Sacrement (1984)
Marking the composer’s birthday

Messiaen is connected with the dawn of organ music and improvisation in France. At the age of twenty-one, immediately upon his graduation from the conservatoire, he entered service as the organist of Paris’ Église de la Sainte−Trinité at the recommendation of his organ class teacher, the outstanding musician Marcel Dupré. Messiaen retained this post till the last days of his life (over sixty years!), executing his duties with unfailing perfection.
Performances by this French maestro drew people from all across the globe.
Messiaen had to write music for each service – this was how his organ works appeared. They all embody religious subjects and are filled with divine symbolism, and in terms of themes they cover Church festivals of all different kinds: Christmas, Trinity, Pentecost, festivals of Church Dedication and of the Holy Eucharist. The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is connected with Messiaen’s first organ work (Le Banquet céleste, 1926), and the grandiose Livre du Saint Sacrement (1984) brings the French maestro’s organ music to a close. In this, his final work, composed by him for the “king of instruments”, Messiaen summarised all the expressive means of his own unique language – birdsong, medieval chorale, elements of eastern music and 20th century composition techniques, the use of which in liturgy became possible thanks to a decree by the Second Vatican Council.
The immense, eighteen-part cycle was born from a three-minute improvisation that Messiaen performed during a mass for Great Thursday under impressions from the beauty of the service dedicated to Christ’s introduction of the Eucharist (this event from the Last Supper formed the title of the piece, subsequently included in the work as No 8). Many ideas were inspired by a trip to Israel and to places linked with Christ’s worldly life – Gethsemane, Jericho and the desert of Jeddah.
The work was premiered by Almut Ressler, an outstanding organist who had perfected her skills under Messiaen, on the gigantic organ in Detroit during a festival of the American Guild of Organists. The Livre du Saint Sacrement throws out a real challenge to performers, demanding of them tremendous virtuosity and endurance, and so only a very few organists dare to include it in full in their concert repertoires.
Nadezhda Kulygina


Age category 6+

Any use or copying of site materials, design elements or layout is forbidden without the permission of the rightholder.