Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Royal Festival Hall


There was a theatrical quality to tonight’s concert in the Royal Festival Hall. Music written in confinement performed for an audience emerging from isolation.

The pilgrimage to hear Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time from pianist Steven Osborne, violinist Alina Ibragimova, cellist Alban Gerhardt, and clarinetist Mark Simpson provided the catharsis that perhaps I was left wanting after last night’s Vaughan Williams from the RPO. Those on stage and in the auditorium participated in a profound and poignant moment of reflection, remembrance, and gratitude.

Alina Ibragimova, Steven Osborne, Alban Gerhardt, and Mark Simpson

To pick it apart would do an injustice to the experience. This was an exceptionally special experience. Simpson’s solo movement was epic, Gerhardt’s heart-breaking, and Alina Ibragimova’s utterly divine.

Throughout the quartet Osborne acted as a kind of facilitator, support each instrumentalist as and when needed, preluding the Quartet with the solo piano piece ‘Je dors mais mon coeur veille’. The dynamic range throughout was astounding.

And as the music faded away so the distant rumble of a Tube train penetrated the silence. Devastating.