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Apparition de l’église éternelle

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Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen (arr. David J. Miller)

General Info

Year: 1932 / 2012
Duration: c. 8:30
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Organ
Publisher: Serenissima Music
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $250.00   |   Score Only (print) - $44.95


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II (double Piccolo)
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contra Alto Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
Piccolo Trumpet I-II
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III-IV
Euphonium I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Piccolo Tam-Tam (optional)
  • Tam-Tam, small and large


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Apparition de l'eglise éternelle (Apparition of the eternal church) is, by any standard, one of the most extraordinary and powerful pieces ever written. For proof, look no further than Paul Festa's 2006 documentary, a film consisting almost entirely of various people's reaction to hearing it for the first time. Written for solo organ at the age of 24, it is meant to approximate a fleeting glimpse at divinity itself and the accompanying terror and ecstasy such an encounter would produce. In David Miller's texturally rich arrangement, one can easily hear what Messiaen referred to, somewhat paradoxically, as "the hammer blows of grace."

- Program Note by Andrew J. Skaggs

Apparition de l'église éternelle (Apparition of the eternal church) is a work for organ, written by the French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1932.

The piece is in arc form, beginning in pianissimo and building up to a fortissimo climax featuring a C major chord, and then receding back to pianissimo. Richly colored chords alternate with open fifths, on top of a throbbing bass which repeats a simple rhythmic pattern. Programmatically, the piece describes the appearance of the eternal church, which then fades away. This imagery has been compared to Dante's description of the inferno.

Messiaen described the piece by quoting from the hymn Cœlestis urbs Jerusalem: "Scissors, hammer, suffering, and tests, tailoring and polishing the elected persons, living stones of the spiritual edifice", stating that the throbbing bass depicts the incessant work of construction.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

It is easy to make comparisons between Olivier Messiaen's Apparition de l'eglise eternelle and Wagner's Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral or Debussy's La cathedrale engloutie. Each represents a journey symbolic of a strong and lasting testament of faith. However, where Wagner and Debussy seek to describe the vision of these existing structures -- approaching a cathedral from a distance or its gradual appearance and disappearance -- Messiaen's imagery seeks to speak to the time and craftsmanship involved in the creation of these monolithic testaments of faith.

In describing the piece, Messiaen quotes the hymn Coelestis urbs Jerusalem: "Chisel and hammer, sufferings and trials, cut and polish the elect - living stones of the spiritual edifice (expressed by the repeated rhythm of the bass instruments and timpani). Formed slowly, only time will see it disappear." He also contributed the following poem:

Made out of living stone,
Made out of heavenly stone,
It appears in heaven:
It is the Lamb's bride!
It is the heavenly church
Made out of heavenly stone
Which is the chosen's souls.
They are in God, and God is in them.
For heavenly eternity!

Composed originally for organ, David J. Miller transcribed the work for the U. S. Navy Band in 2012.

- Program Note from West Chester University Wind Ensemble concert program, 21 February 2019


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer