DVDs of Messiaen’s organ music are rare.Now why would that be? Watching someone play the organ for two hours might not be riveting appointment viewing? The audience for Olivier Messiaen’s music, especially his organ music, is vanishingly small? How many other reasons can you think of?
Actually I like this stuff. Last time I was in Paris, far too many years ago, I made the pilgrimage across town to the church of Saint-Trinité to hear the great composer himself play the Cavaillé-Coll organ there, as advertised (he was the parish organist for 60 years). That really would be the late 20th-century equivalent of hearing Beethoven or Mozart in recital. But malheureusement, the priest told me, M. Messiaen was indisposed that day (he died not long afterward).
Strange to relate, the priest could tell I was not a native French speaker and asked where I was from. As often happens when discombobulated, I lost most of my French and couldn’t remember how to say Nouvelle Zélande. I think he got the impression I was from Novaya Zemlya. Or possibly somewhere in Holland.
Here is Olivier Messiaen in 1985 improvising at the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Trinité, from this DVD: