'Listen to the birds; they are great masters!’ was the advice Paul Dukas gave his student Olivier Messiaen.

Messiaen took the advice to heart: he amassed an impressive collection of birdsong from around the world. In Oiseaux Exotiques, he brings together 48 birds from Asia, North and South America: impossible to do in the real world, but enchanting in that of Messiaen.

Stravinsky’s Le chant du Rossignol also lets exotic nature triumph: the song of the lively nightingale from Andersen’s fairy tale wins out – ultimately – over its mechanical counterpart.

“The exotic birds singing in this score have wonderfully coloured feathers, reflected in the music: all the colours of the rainbow wheel about, including red, the colour of hot countries and the beautiful cardinal of Virginia!”
- Olivier Messiaen

Messiaen makes the explosion of colours of all those birds audible: “In the second tutti, the part with the horns: orange, mixed with gold and red. In the first and last cadenza of the piano solo: green and gold. And the central tutti: spirals of colour, whirlpools of intertwined rainbows with blue, red, orange, green, purple and pink.”


Claude Debussy

soloist: Lieve Schuermans, flute

Olivier Messiaen
Oiseaux Exotiques
soloist: Jan Michiels, piano

Igor Stravinsky
Le Chant du Rossignol
L’Oiseau de feu


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bird id

What's that bird? Answer 5 questions or upload a photo and the Merlin Bird ID app will help you solve the mystery.

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wolfgang: subtitles for symphonies

This concert is supported by the Wolfgang app: receive real-time explanations of the music during the concert.

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messiaen on birds

Olivier Messiaen discussing bird calls and songs.

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bbc: the essay

BBC Radio 3 presenter Tom McKinney celebrates the birdsong-inspired music of the twentieth-century French composer Olivier Messiaen and its special place in his life.

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🎟️🎫 €41 > €5

Venue: Studio 4, Flagey

Location: Place Sainte Croix Heilig Kruisplein | 1050 Brussels
Telephone: +32 2 620 41 10
Online: www.flagey.be

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