Sitkovetsky Trio / Pablo Barragán

Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time – Hamburg International Music Festival

Pablo Barragán
Pablo Barragán © Alex Domarco
Sitkovetsky Trio
Sitkovetsky Trio © Vincy Ng

Composed at the end of time

»This trio is incredibly well matched, and you can tell how much they trust each other« was BBC Radio’s recent verdict on the Sitkovetsky Trio, which was formed in 2007. And on top of that, the Sitkovetsky Trio has really developed an exceptional quality over the years. They are joined here by the Andalusian clarinettist Pablo Barragán, who loves telling stories with his nuanced and richly coloured playing – e.g. in Olivier Messiaen’s »Quartet for the End of Time«.

By the time he completed and gave the first performance of the »Quatuor pour la fin du temps«, as it is known in the original, in the Görlitz prisoner-of-war camp in 1941, the French composer had already spent many months in captivity. The piece’s unusual combination of instruments is simply a reflection of who was incarcerated with Messiaen and what instruments they could play; Messiaen himself took the piano part. Today, the quartet is acknowledged as one of the central chamber-music works of the 20th century. Marked through and through by the composer’s deep Catholic faith, the music is closely linked to the book of Revelations in the Bible. Messiaen himself described the work in these words: »The motifs bring the listener closer to eternity. Special rhythms without any conventional metre push the dimension of time into the distance. The quartet has eight movements. Why? Seven is the consummate number. God spent six days creating the world, sanctified by the divine Sabbath; the seventh day expands into eternity and becomes the eighth day of inextinguishable light and everlasting peace.« Surrounded by the horrors of the Second World War, Messiaen’s faith enabled him not to lose hope.

French works – a duo and a trio – are also under the spotlight before the interval: Claude Debussy’s »Première Rhapsodie« for piano and clarinet follows Maurice Ravel’s only piano trio, written in 1914 while he was staying in the Basque region. In addition to local Basque influence, the composer also incorporated echoes of Malaysian music into the work, reflecting the fashion around the turn of the century forte »exotic«.The score also shows how Ravel was horrified by the outbreak of the First World War. He wrote to a friend: »The alarms bells have been ringing for two days, everywhere women are weeping, and worst of all is the excruciating enthusiasm amongst young people!«.


Sitkovetsky Trio

Alexander Sitkovetsky violin
Isang Enders violoncello
Qian Wu piano

Pablo Barragán clarinet


Claude Debussy
Rhapsody No. 1 for Clarinet and Piano

Maurice Ravel
Piano Trio in A minor

– Interval –

Olivier Messiaen
Quatuor pour la fin du temps

Estimated end time



Hamburg International Music Festival

Promoter: HamburgMusik

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