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Olivier Messiaen - La Nativité du Seigneur: Nine meditations for Organ (PFCD081)

Performed by Richard Tanner at the organ of Blackburn Cathedral

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[1] La Vierge et l’Enfant
[2] Les Bergérs
[3] Desseins eternals
[4] Le Verbe
[5] Les Enfants de Dieu
[6] Les Anges
[7] Jésus accepte la souffrance
[8] Les Mages
[9] Dieu parmi nous


Olivier Messiaen’s monumental organ work La Nativité du Seigneur is played here by Richard Tanner on the organ of Blackburn Cathedral. Composed in 1935 and published the following year, La Nativité was Messiaen’s fourth published work for organ. The nine meditations are a powerful expression of Messiaen’s devout Roman Catholic faith and reflect on Christ’s nativity both figuratively and devotionally. Each meditation is headed by carefully chosen Biblical texts that are at the heart of Messiaen’s musical creation. He prefaced the published edition with an explanatory note outlining the theological aims of the work and detailing some of the unconventional techniques, such as added note values, unusual scales and modes of limited transposition, sometimes derived from non-western music, and the organ sonorities he employed.

Olivier Messiaen was born in Avignon in 1908, and entered the Paris Conservatoire when he was just 11 years old. He studied the organ under Marcel Dupré and composition under Paul Dukas (among his fellow students were Jean Langlais, Jehan Alain and Maurice Duruflé). In 1930 he became the principal organist at La Trinité in Paris, a post he held for more than 40 years. In addition to his celebrated and very individual works for organ, he composed orchestral music, chamber music and songs, works for piano and an opera. He was among the most significant and influential figures in French music of the 20th Century.

The Organ at Blackburn Cathedral was built by J W Walkers of Ruislip in 1969. It was overhauled and enlarged from three to four manuals in 2002 by the organ builder David Wood of Huddersfield. It has sixty speaking stops.

La Nativite CD

Richard Tanner

Richard Tanner
Richard Tanner
became Director of Music at Rugby School in September 2012, having previously been Director of Chapel Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, based at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Prior to that he spent 13 years as Director of Music at Blackburn Cathedral. He is also a Musical Director for the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service and regularly works on a variety of other programmes for the BBC, including BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong and BBC Radio 2’s Young Choristers of the Year competition. He has given organ recitals, conducted orchestras and directed choral courses worldwide and has worked extensively as a record producer.

His musical journey began as a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral; he studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Oxford University, where he read for a music degree and was organ scholar at Exeter College. After Oxford he spent a year as organ scholar at St Albans Cathedral before moving to All Saints’ Northampton, where he was Director of Music for five years.

Richard is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. In 2008 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians and in 2010 he became an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, an award made to former students who have made a significant contribution to the music profession.