“From anticipation to anxiety, from bewilderment to awe – for a brief musical moment the prisoners were free.” Rebecca Rischin, For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet
Written in 1940, Quartet for the End of Time was one of the most frequently performed works by French composer Olivier Messiaen. The quartet, scored for the unconventional ensemble of clarinet, violin, cello and piano, was composed and premiered inside a prisoner-of-war camp during the WWII under extremely harsh conditions; but was “listened to with such rapt attention and comprehension” by his fellow inmates, many of whom were hearing chamber music for the first time. The work embodies the composer’s firm faith and perseverance amid adversity, and is considered a symbol of the power of great art to console hearts in the humanity’s darkest chapters.
Formed upon the performance of the same work in 2021, LENK Quartet is bringing this monumental masterpiece to the highly evocative former Victoria Prison, now reimagined as Tai Kwun. The night view from the huge picture window of the JC Cube overlooks the dramatic Prison Yard and recalls a century of prisoners who could find a brief, sunlit semblance of freedom within its high security walls. Hong Kong composer Daniel Lo reflects upon Messiaen’s gigantic quartet with newly composed work for the same forces.