Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed “the marvellous aspects of the faith”, and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism.
Here’s the man in action, along with his wife Yvonne Loriod, a piano teacher and superb performer of his music. This piece, taken from his masterpiece, Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus is called Par lui tout a été fait (Through Him All Things Were Made): This is a piece that I am learning, although it’s such a beast to play that I’m taking my time with it. I estimate it will be a couple of years to get to grips with this!
Visit BBC Music for a podcast about this composer.