Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus

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Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus ("Twenty looks at the child Jesus") is a suite of 20 pieces for solo piano by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992). The work is a meditation on the infancy of Jesus. It was composed in 1944 for Yvonne Loriod. A typical performance lasts about two hours.

Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus
Piano suite by Olivier Messiaen
EnglishTwenty contemplations on the infant Jesus
DurationAbout two hours


There are 20 movements:

  1. Regard du Père ("Contemplation of the Father")
  2. Regard de l'étoile ("Contemplation of the star")
  3. L'échange ("The exchange")
  4. Regard de la vierge ("Contemplation of the Virgin")
  5. Regard du fils sur le fils ("Contemplation of the Son upon the Son")
  6. Par lui tout a été fait ("Through Him everything was made")
  7. Regard de la croix ("Contemplation of the Cross")
  8. Regard des hauteurs ("Contemplation of the heights")
  9. Regard du temps ("Contemplation of time")
  10. Regard de l'esprit de joie ("Contemplation of the joyful Spirit")
  11. Première communion de la vierge ("The Virgin's first communion")
  12. La parole toute puissante ("The all-powerful word")
  13. Noël ("Christmas")
  14. Regard des anges ("Contemplation of the Angels")
  15. Le baiser de l'enfant-Jésus ("The kiss of the Infant Jesus")
  16. Regard des prophètes, des bergers et des Mages ("Contemplation of the prophets, the shepherds and the Magi")
  17. Regard du silence ("Contemplation of silence")
  18. Regard de l'Onction terrible ("Contemplation of the awesome Anointing")
  19. Je dors, mais mon cœur veille ("I sleep, but my heart keeps watch")
  20. Regard de l'église d'amour ("Contemplation of the Church of love")


Thème de Dieu
Thème de l'étoile et de la croix
Thème d'accords

Messiaen uses Thèmes or leitmotifs, recurring elements that represent certain ideas. They include:

  • Thème de Dieu ("Theme of God")
  • Thème de l'amour mystique ("Theme of Mystical Love")
  • Thème de l'étoile et de la croix ("Theme of the Star and of the Cross")
  • Thème d'accords ("Theme of Chords")[1]

For example, Messiaen has written that "The 'Theme of Chords' is heard throughout, fragmented, concentrated, surrounded with resonances, combined with itself, modified in both rhythm and register, transformed, transmuted in all sorts of ways: it is a complex of sounds intended for perpetual variation, pre-existing in the abstract like a series, but quite concrete and quite easily recognizable through its colours: a steely grey-blue shot through with red and bright orange, a mauve violet spotted with leather-brown and encircled by bluish-purple."[1]


  1. ^ a b Messiaen cited (without exact source) in liner notes by Royal S. Brown on the Michel Béroff recording for Connoisseur Society, CS2-2133, released 1976 by EMI Records.


  • Bruhn, Siglind (2008). Messiaen's Interpretations of Holiness and Trinity: Echoes of Medieval Theology in the Oratorio, Organ Meditations, and Opera. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-139-5.
  • Bruhn, Siglind (2008). Messiaen's Explorations of Love and Death. Musico-poetic Signification in the Tristan Trilogy and Three Related Song Cycles. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-136-4.
  • Bruhn, Siglind (2007). Messiaen's Contemplations of Covenant and Incarnation: Musical Symbols of Faith in the Two Great Piano Cycles of the 1940s. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press. ISBN 978-1-57647-129-6.
  • Dingle, Christopher (2013). Messiaen’s Final Works. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.
  • Goléa, Antoine (1960). Rencontres avec Olivier Messiaen. Paris:[full citation needed].
  • Sherlaw Johnson, Robert (1975). Messiaen. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Sholl, Robert (2008). Messiaen Studies. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.