Master class

Olivier Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod, pianists and teachers

Private music lessons

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Olivier Messiaen — Teacher, pianist

Yvonne Loriod — Teacher, pianist

Nicholas Angelich — Pianist (student)

Kei Saotome — Pianist (student)

Roger Muraro — Pianist (student)

Yoko Kaneko — Pianist (student)

Masaaki Yasuda — Pianist (student)

Olivier Bernager — A collection by

François Manceaux — A collection by

Program notes

In this masterclass, Yvonne Loriod retraces her musical itinerary, her meeting with Olivier Messiaen and their influence on one another, while sharing her experience of the classical, romantic and contemporary piano repertoire with her pupils.

A young man plays before an elegant lady in her prime, under the severe gaze of a judge who sometimes plunges his eyes into a yellowed score Iying open on his knees. The camera Iovingly follows the meanders of the music, Iingering on the stained-giass windows of the church, the tortured face of Christ or the long hands of the artist. Who would have imagined in 1991 that Nicholas Angelich was to become une of the world's foremost pianists, except for Yvonne Loriod whose pupil he still was at the time?

François Manceaux opens this Iesson with a dïzzying sequence shot. Angelïch plays "Par Lui tout a été fait", the sixth movement of Olivier Messiaen's Vingt regards sur I'Enfant-Jésus. The illustrious composer had warned us: 'This is Yvonne Loriod's film! I will be no more than a bystander.' And here he is, impassive, gazing into the beyond; but he will not be able to resist giving a short Iesson in musical analysis and reminding us that modern man neglects God and His messengers the birds. We will meet the couple again at their home, squeezing in behind the piano keyboard as they talk about photos. Messiaen will observe that human love reflects divine love and that his wife is living proof of the fact. This film of music is also a hymn to conjugal love.

Many documentaries, some of them extremely interesting, have been made about Messiaen; very few about his wife. And yet, over and above its intrinsic human interest, the couple they formed embodies the indispensable relationship between the composer and his interpreter. Messiaen was an unusually gifted pianist and an organist fit to rank among the finest, but without Yvonne Loriod who heard his new pieces during their gestatïon and sometimes played his sketches for him, would he have written so large a body of keyboard works?

Yvonne Loriod, a lady of thoroughly oId-world values, precious in her Ianguage, somewhat stuffy in her politeness, had the most anti-establishment attitude imaginable for her period when it came to music. Her ideas on society and her unswerving Catholic faith placed her on the side of a generous but reactionary Right. In music, though, she was far from reactionary : she defended tooth and nail the musical creation of her time by no means renouncing tradition. Thus, within a institution timid in the extreme, a self-satisfied Conservatoire which was to explode in 1968, a deaf musical society crying out for the violence of the composers born around 1925 Boulez, Berio, Xenakis, and Stockhausen, Yvonne Loriod, in her tranquil classroom at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, where she could impose only tiny doses of the music of her day on a retrograde direction, was a major personality of what was then called "contemporary music".

Yet nothing of Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Scriabin, Ravel, Chopin escaped her. She was a rounded artist who passed on to her pupils the feature of the French technique, its touch — that way of not always playing right through the notes, of 'working on the double escapement', which gives French piano-playing its jeu perlé and its elegance — but also the power, never brutal, that is as necessary for the Beethoven sonatas as for the music of Messiaen. In this documentary, she shows young Japanese students that Mozart's phrases begin before the first note and finish after the last, that one must never be carried away by the tempo in Beethoven... In just a few minutes of film, she gives us a glimpse of her consummate gift for awakening artistic vocations, in some cases those of pianists among the Ieading figures of our time, such as Aimard. Béroff, Angelich, Muraro and Levinas.

Private music lessons: twelve hugely influential programmes broadcast by French television between 1987 and 1991. The guiding principle for Olivier Bernager and François Manceaux was to capture the art of the leading performers of our time, live in concert but also and above all in a teaching environment.

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