History of the competition

The Olivier Messiaen Competition, dedicated to contemporary piano music, was created in 1967 by Claude Samuel, as part of the Royan Festival.

Michel Béroff, 17 years old, won the first edition, whose jury was presided over by Olivier Messiaen himself. The competition was organized until 1972 and then became part of the international competitions of the City of Paris for three editions. The Competition was chaired by Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen in 2000, by Michel Béroff in 2003 and by Gilbert Amy in 2007.

In 2019, Bruno Messina, director of the EPCC Arts en Isère Dauphiné Alpes (AIDA), which is responsible for the artistic project of the Maison Messiaen and the Festival Messiaen au Pays de la Meije, is entrusted by Claude Samuel to revive the competition.

For this revival, the competition takes the form of an international organ competition organized in Lyon. An important spot was given to creation since a new work, commissioned from Philippe Hersant, was imposed on the candidates during the final round.

Since 2019, the EPCC AIDA has joined forces with two important cultural structures in the region: the even-numbered editions, dedicated to organ performance, take place in Lyon in partnership with the Auditorium-Orchestre national de Lyon, and the odd-numbered editions, dedicated to piano performance, are held in Grenoble in partnership with the MC2 (from 1st November 2023). The programs provided to the candidates include a musical commission and put works from Olivier Messiaen’s repertoire and new works into perspective.

Piano Competition

The piano occupies an important place in Messiaen’s life and work. It was the first instrument he learned, first as a child, then with teachers.

His work for piano remains closely linked to his second wife, the genius pianist Yvonne Loriod, who created and inspired all of his piano works beginning with Visions de l’Amen in 1943. Messiaen’s piano repertoire includes such essential works as Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus and Catalogue d’oiseaux for solo works, the Quatuor pour la fin du Temps for chamber music, and Des Canyons aux étoiles and Turangalîla-Symphonie for large orchestral works.

In collaboration with the MC2: Grenoble, the EPCC AIDA honors the original instrument of the Olivier Messiaen International Competition by proposing, every two years, an edition dedicated to the piano.

Organ Competition

The organ is closely associated with the work of Olivier Messiaen, who for more than seventy years held the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Trinité in Paris.

The Auditorium-Orchestre national de Lyon was the ideal partner for the international organ competition. This instrument is an important part of the identity of the Lyon Auditorium, which owns a remarkable example, unique in France. What better setting than the Lyon Auditorium and its Cavaillé-Coll organ to welcome organists from around the world?

This 82-stop organ was built in 1878 for the Trocadero Palace in Paris, before being modernized, reassembled at the Palais de Chaillot and then transferred to the Lyon Auditorium in 1977. Numerous works have been performed there in their world premiere, including Messiaen’s Les Corps glorieux, performed by the composer himself on April 15, 1945.

Restored to its splendor in 2013 (Michel Gaillard, Maison Aubertin), it is today the only concert hall grand organ in France outside of Paris.