Einführung in Messiaen’s “Messe de la Pentecôte” (Pfingstmesse) by Peter Krams

I. “Tongues of fire settled on each of them ” (Acts)

Messiaen translates spiritual content into an unusual tonal language rich in tension. He no longer starts from the fundamental-major major-minor harmonic, but from all-round chromaticism of the twelve semitones, but without adopting the system of twelve-tone technology. Hitherto unknown melodic phrases and expressive dissonances 004_01_ap_04 determine the movement without, however, completely excluding tonal relationships. All of these sound combinations serve to effectively interpret the quotation of the tongues of fire “in an independent style and tonal variety that can no longer be replaced by our everyday cadenzharmonic. Variable rhythmic structures support this kaleidoscopic sound palette instead of the usual clock scheme (005_01_ap_05) (006_01_ap_06).

So rhythmic motifs appear at the beginning – probably to represent the perfection of the mind – which are played from the front and from the back (short – long – long short) (001_01_ap_01). Such rhythmic symbols of perfection combine with different added durations as God’s Spirit communicates to people (002_01_ap_02) (003_01_ap_03). In addition, meters from ancient teaching are used. A signal-like trumpet voice returns, interrupted by pauses, again (003a_01_ap_03a) and combines the varied dynamic play of the register timbres.

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