Utah Arts Review – Utah Symphony season to spotlight state’s natural beauties with Messiaen
by Edward Reichel
Despite Utah’s many natural wonders, there have been few musical works written that have been influenced by our state’s imposing mountains or stunning red rock desert vistas.
One composer who found inspiration in Utah’s landscapes was the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen. Throughout his life, Messiaen traveled extensively, and in the early 1970s he and his wife, the pianist Yvonne Loriod, found themselves in the Beehive State where they spent several months.
Returning home to France, Messiaen took his impressions of what he saw (and heard) and wrote Des canyons aux étoiles. The result was a 12-movement work of interconnected tone poems depicting the state’s geography, along with the songs of some of the indigenous birds he heard on his trip.
Ever since Thierry Fischer was appointed the Utah Symphony’s music director in 2009, he has wanted to program Messiaen’s From the canyons to the stars…
“It is such a wonderful homage to nature,” he said recently in an interview with Utah Arts Review. “It captures the sacred character of the red rock landscape and also its depth and immensity.”