Obituary: Pianist Yvonne Loriod, 86, Messiaen’s wife and muse

Posted on: May 19, 2010

In Wednesday’s (5/18) New York Times, Paul Griffiths writes, “Yvonne Loriod, the French pianist whose musical exactitude and intensity inspired numerous masterpieces by her husband, the composer Olivier Messiaen, died on Monday at a retirement home in Saint-Denis, on the edge of Paris. She was 86. Ms. Loriod had been in declining health since suffering a cerebral hemorrhage three years ago and had recently broken a hip, said Roger Muraro, a former student and close friend, who confirmed her death. There may be no parallel in musical history to the performer-composer relationship that Ms. Loriod and Messiaen maintained across half a century. It gave rise not only to two immense Messiaen solo works—‘Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus’ (‘20 Glances at the Child Jesus’) and ‘Catalogue d’Oiseaux’ (‘Bird Catalog’)—but also to shorter pieces and quasi concertos, ranging in scale from the huge ‘Turangalîla Symphony’ to ‘Oiseaux Exotiques’ (‘Exotic Birds’), for piano with a tight group of wind instruments and percussion. The presence of birds in so many of these works was no accident. For Messiaen, birdsong provided intimation of the music of heaven, unclouded by human egotism. … In Ms. Loriod he found a musician who could provide avian qualities of agility and spectacle.”

Posted May 19, 2010