Critic’s Choice

Tue May 09, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Olivier Messiaen

A true musical rarity arrives in Washington later this week when Washington Performing Arts presents a performance of Des canyons aux étoiles… by Olivier Messiaen. The trail-blazing French composer created this bizarre, sprawling work for the Bicentennial of the American Declaration of Independence. He wrote much of the music in response to a visit to Utah, including the red-orange rock formations of Bryce Canyon and the desert beauty of Zion Park, as well as his signature dissonant bird calls.

The performers will be members of the U.S. Air Force Band and pianist Peter Henderson, under the leadership of conductor David Robertson. The live performance of music will accompany a new film of moving images and photographs by Deborah O’Grady, taken in the places Messiaen visited and coordinated with the score. See and hear this free concert 8 p.m. Friday at DAR Constitution Hall. washingtonperformingarts.org; 202-785-9727.

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Also this week’s concerts from the National Symphony Orchestra feature the local premiere of Christopher Rouse’s new Organ Concerto. Paul Jacobs will be soloist, and Gustavo Gimeno will conduct, in a program also including chestnuts by Rimsky-Korsakov (Scheherazade) and Tchaikovsky (Nutcracker Suite No. 1) 7 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. kennedy-center.org; 202-467-4600.


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