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Landmark festival celebrates visionary French composer

For 10 days in October, the University will become one of the centers of the classical music universe, as some of the world’s leading musicians and scholars converge on Hyde Park to honor a composer who is a giant in 20th-century music, yet unfamiliar to some: Olivier Messiaen.

The 10-concert Messiaen Music Festival runs from Thursday, Oct. 2 through Saturday, Oct. 11 at six Hyde Park and downtown venues. The Chicago Tribune notes that this is “the most extensive festival of Messiaen’s music to be given anywhere in the U.S. this year.”

The festival will showcase the range of the composer’s output—from solo organ and piano works, to orchestral and chamber pieces, to songs and narratives, to his legendary “Quartet for the End of Time.” It will also include the world premiere of “Trois visions de l’arcen-ciel,” which Marta Ptaszynska, the Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Music, wrote specifically for the festival.

“It’s an enormously exciting event for us,” said Shauna Quill, executive director of the University of Chicago Presents. It’s the first time in the acclaimed concert series’ 65-year history that an individual composer has been celebrated on this scale. “We are fortunate that his anniversary gives us the perfect excuse to do so. Not only are we stretching the scope of programming at Chicago Presents, but we are doing it in partnership with people around the University, the city of Chicago, the U.S. and Europe.”

For a full list of events, see the University of Chicago Presents website.

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