Notebook

Wealth

At the end of Olivier Mille’s documentary portrait of Messiaen, the composer speaks of his oratorio Francis of Assisi. He’d been reproached for it, he says, by right-minded people objecting that St Francis had been poor whereas Messiaen’s orchestration, colours, and rhythms are incredibly rich. The composer gives the following response:

‘St Francis was totally poor, that is true. Yet he retained a child’s capacity for wonder. He was in awe before all the beauty that surrounded him. So he was rich! Rich in sunlight, rich in the stars, rich in flowers, rich in birds, rich in the sea, rich in trees, rich in all that surrounded him. That’s immense wealth – and it is’, adds Messiaen, ‘something I wish you all.’