Hommage is a piece for Piano and Cello, and was written for members of the Fidelio Trio in 2021.

It is based on Olivier Messiaen’s Louange a l’Eternité de Jesus, a piece for the same combination of instruments.

I loosely imitated the texture of the piece: A slow, longing cello melody played over eternal, repeating chords in the piano. However, there are various subtle differences. Instead of straight sixteenth notes, I introduce a rhythmic pattern of 2+7 into the piano part, which also reframes the melodic line. Of course, the actual melody and harmony of the piece are also original creations of mine, not of Messiaen’s. Finally, the form is different; instead of ending quietly, almost fading out, this piece ends triumphantly on an F# chord in fortissimo.

Imitating a piece in this way brings various questions with it that I think are interesting. Hommage is not a pastiche or a parody. It does not ‘respond’ to Louange, but revives it in a new form. Messiaen is dead, after all, but I am not. Of course, this comes with a responsibility. Can you write harmonies that are as good as Messiaen’s? Can you truly replicate the immense power of the original piece? I don’t know, but I thought it was worth a try.

Tim McGill, cello, Mary Dullea, piano.
Video: Nathan James Dearden