I- Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père
II- Alléluias sereins d’une âme qui désire le ciel
III- Alléluia sur la trompette, Alléluia sur la cymbale
IV- Prière du Christ montant vers son Père

These four “symphonic meditations” reveal Messiaen’s characteristic religious conviction, captured also in his own observation that he aimed to achieve mystical ends through “the emotion and sincerity of musical work, which shall be at the service of the dogmas of Catholic theology.” L’Ascension also reflects Messiaen’s exploration of plainsong, Hindu rhythms, and bird-song. These influences would later find their fullest expression in his Turangalîla Symphony. The evocative movement titles of L’Ascension are also typical of Messiaen. The first meditation is entitled “Majesty of Christ beseeching His Glory of the Father. ‘Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee.’” The trumpet takes a principal role with majestic accompaniment from the brass and woodwinds. This is followed by “Serene Alleluias of a Soul yearning for Heaven. ‘We beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we may in mind dwell in Heaven.’” This section starts with a toccata-like passage for unison woodwinds, followed by a cor anglais solo with a quasi-oriental influence. The third movement is “Alleluias on the Trumpets, Alleluias on the Cymbals. ‘The Lord is gone up with the sound of a trumpet, O clap your hands all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.’” Trumpet fanfares again introduce a euphoric orchestral passage. The work ends with “Prayer of Christ ascending to the Father. ‘I have manifested Thy name unto men… And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee.’ ” Having given the first movement to brass and woodwinds, Messiaen scores the last for strings alone. The extremely languorous tempo of the two solo cellos, five violas five second violins and first violins, sustains the intense religious character of this movement.

Performance

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