The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Acclaimed Van Cliburn Competition prize winner, UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor performs Messiaen’s COMPLETE “Twenty Looks at the Infant Jesus” in Milwaukee on Friday night, then in New York City on Tuesday night. Could a New Holiday Tradition be in the making? | December 6, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

This Friday night, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. in Milwaukee, the acclaimed University of Wisconsin-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor (below) will perform the COMPLETE sets of  Olivier Messiaen‘s work, “Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jésus,” at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 914 East Knapp Street.


Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for students. They are available at the door and online at or by calling 414-255-0801.

In addition, Timothy Benson, organist at Saint Paul’s Church will present a lecture and performance of Messiaen’s work on TONIGHT, December 6 at 7 p.m. at Saint Paul’s. Admission is free with a ticket to the December 7 concert.

Composed in 1944, “Vingt Regards” (Twenty Looks at the Infant Jesus”) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1982, below) is a collection of 20 short contemplations on the infant Jesus by “God the Father,” “the Mother Virgin Mary,” the angels, wise men, birds from the heights, silence, time, the stars and the cross.

The music is a kaleidoscope of radiant colors, bird songs, mini-orchestral sounds, Christmas bells and Hindu drums. It is a difficult work technically and interpretatively, and is a specialty of Taylor, who won a bronze medal at the 1991 Van Cliburn Competition and can be heard playing an excerpt at the bottom of this posting.

For more information about the Milwaukee performance, visit:

Olivier Messiaen#1#

Based in Milwaukee, PianoArts’ mission is to foster appreciation and performance of classical music by identifying and mentoring a new generation of pianists with exceptional musical and verbal communication skills and by presenting them to diverse audiences. It also sponsors a major international competition every two years.

This concert is a timely performance of a work that has obvious ties to the holidays, Taylor will also perform the same daunting program in New York City next Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. as a holiday-related concert at the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, to be performed in its Medieval Sculpture Hall.

For information about the New York performance, visit:

Could Christopher Taylor performing Messiaen become a New Holiday Tradition?

We could sure use one.

How about a performance here in Madison next year?


  1. Madison Area Concert Handbells are presenting three concerts beginning this Sunday. We would certainly appreciate your inclusion of some information about the concerts in your blog. Attached is a description of the concerts and pieces. Photos, past performances, and CDs can be found at our website: Thank you!
    Susan Udell, Interim Music Director

    Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2012 06:01:20 +0000 To:

    Comment by sandj u — December 6, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  2. I cannot figure out which link leads to either audio or video of the Messiaen music in question. I do not know the sound of it, but, if it is like lots of other Messiaen, it does not seem to be Taylor-ed, (terrible joke, I know…) to a mass audience, and thus, will most likely NOT become a Holiday tradition.
    Anyone who has ever tried to crack the Christmas song market knows how truly difficult a task it is to make a new classic. If Mr. Taylor gets good reviews and a good-sized audience, and repeats the concerts for a few years, every modern music lover will have something un-sentimental to look forward to at Xmas.
    I will certainly attend any Madison performances of this music at the holidays. BUT, I would not expect a new tradition to arise out of this series of events.

    Comment by Michael BB — December 6, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    • Hi Michael,
      As usual, you are spot on.
      I agree with your reply.
      But maybe it could become a sub-tradition for special tastes.
      Or least a yearly gig for the gifted Christopher Taylor
      as he brings holiday Messiaen around the US or world.
      I myself a not a big Messiaen fan.
      But quite a few classical music fans are.

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 6, 2012 @ 10:20 am

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