Concert will spotlight music by composer/ornithologist


FARMINGTON — The Arts Institute of Western Maine will present a concert featuring music by French 20th century composer Olivier Messiaen, who was also a mystic and an ornithologist.

Messiaen believed birds were the greatest musicians, and his love of bird song as well as his Roman Catholic faith is reflected in his music.

Messiaen has influenced many of today’s composers — classical minimalists, jazz composers and some rock musicians, including Radiohead.

On Saturday, March 10,  pianists Bridget Covey, Annie Antonacos and Chiharu Naruse will perform Messiaen’s masterpiece, “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jesus” (Twenty contemplations on the Christ-child), written in 1944. The musical piece consists of 20 intense miniatures depicting  20 different contemplations of the infant Jesus.

These contemplations reflect varied points of view, including God the Father, the Virgin Mary, angels, prophets, shepherds and the Magi, plus such symbolic entities as the cross and time.

The result is a complex structure embodying, along with Messaien’s customary mysticism, moments of tenderness and sensuality, bird songs, the pyrotechnics of Franz Liszt and an abundance of dissonance.

The three pianists will perform “Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jesus” at 7:30 p.m. in the Emery Community Arts Center on the University of Maine at Farmington campus. The performance will include projections of pieces of art related to each movement.

Tickets, $10, include a 6:30 p.m. lecture presented by Daniel Sonenberg, resident composer and professor of composition at the University of Southern Maine.