21 April 2016, The Tablet

Early apocalypse


Sir Simon Rattle is becoming a familiar figure about town, even though he has not officially started yet as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra. He is not sightseeing; rather, he comes prepared to address the major themes of our intellectual and spiritual life as a great conductor should.

In the first of two concerts at the Barbican over the past few days, he concerned himself with the apocalypse. There was a full house plus Radio 3 (live) and a French TV company (Mezzo) with cameras on stage and in the stalls to share a profound experience.

Olivier Messiaen’s Couleurs de la Cité Céleste is inspired by five verses, written in the score, from different chapters of Revelation, or l’Apocalypse in the composer’s French. In them, John, raving in his cave outside Ephesus, perceives radiant gemstones in the walls of the celestial city from sapphire to amethyst.

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