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The Miracle of Stalag 8A (Stalag VIII-A) – Beauty Beyond the Horror: Olivier Messiaen and the Quartet for the End of Time – FREE


The Miracle of Stalag 8A (Stalag VIII-A) – Beauty Beyond the Horror: Olivier Messiaen and the Quartet for the End of Time
John William McMullen
5 star nonfiction

The Miracle of Stalag 8A is a retelling of the fascinating story of Olivier Messiaen’s composition of his Quartet for the End of Time. Set in France & Germany from 1939 to 1941, Messiaen served in the French army, was captured at Verdun, and sent to Stalag 8A in Gorlitz, Germany, where he composed the great work, The Quartet for the End of Time.

The enigmatic Messiaen, an avant-garde composer and also a devout Catholic, along with Etienne Pasquier, an agnostic cellist, Henri Akoka, a Jewish Trotskyite Clarinetist, and Jean le Boulaire, an atheistic violinist, become the famous quartet of Stalag 8A. These four very different men collaborated to create musical history in the most unlikely of places. Messiaen’s Quartet, composed in a Stalag, transforms man’s inhumanity to man with hope.

Yet to the avant-garde, he was too traditional and too religious; to the traditionalists and religious, he was too avant-garde. As a result he will always stand somewhere outside of Time. The first performance of the Quartet for the End of Time at Stalag 8A in January 1941 has become, in the words of Paul Griffiths, “one of the great stories of twentieth-century music”.

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