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La Ville d'en-Haut

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Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen

The title of work translates from the French as "The City on High."

General Info

Year: 1987
Duration: c. 8:55
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Alphonse Leduc
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $30.00


Full Score
Solo piano
Flute I-III
Alto Flute
Oboe I-III
English Horn
Bassoon I-III
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
Piccolo Trumpet
B-flat Trumpet I-III
Horn in F I-VI
Trombone I-III
Percussion, including:

  • Chimes
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tams (4)
  • Temple Blocks (6)
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

La Ville d’en haut depicts Messiaen’s ideal heaven. The whiteness that in the Bible symbolizes purity or perfection is not an absence of color -- what’s left when all the sins are washed away -- but rather, the combination of all colors in perfect proportion. Messiaen’s passion for ornithology figures prominently throughout La Ville as well, which features thick chorale material contrasted with lyrical and lighthearted birdcalls.

After several opening chords stated by the brass and woodwinds signifying the combination of all colors, or whiteness, Messiaen writes a birdsong played by a xylophone trio, with a cymbal roll providing a heaven-like backdrop. As if the birdsong is without meter or beat, the symbolic ‘white’ chords return in exact repetition of the opening. The pianist enters, replacing the xylophone trio as the birdcall, and is contrasted with thick and thin chords from the brass and woodwinds, thus combining the birdcalls and the divine into one. Perhaps in Messiaen’s mind, the song of birds -- “our little servants of immaterial joy” as he described them -- is the language of heaven.

- Program Note from University of Kansas Wind Ensemble concert program, 9 November 2016


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Messiaen, O. (1994). La Ville D'en-Haut: Pour Piano Solo et Petit Orchestre [score]. A. Leduc: Paris.