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Catalogue d'oiseaux

Virtuoso pianist Michael Kieran Harvey's dazzling pianistic pyrotechnics are displayed to the full in this amazing live performance recorded in Hobart in April 2005. Each of the 13 pieces in the Catalogue d'oiseaux (Catalogue of birds) explores the calls and environment of a single bird species.

Michael Kieran Harvey and Peter Cundall perform Messiaen's naturalist masterpiece - 3-CD set only $35.

A virtuoso storm through nature

... the most arresting performance ... came from Michael Kieran Harvey. This pianist has recently recorded the complete Messiaen Catalogue d'oiseaux, a mammoth undertaking and a cruel test for any pianist. Between two of the shorter pieces - Le loriot and L'alouette lulu - Harvey beat a fascinating path through the half hour of La rousserolle effaruette, an entire world of wildlife in itself rather than an unadorned picture of the reed warbler. With impressive concentration and his trademark virtuosic brilliance, Harvey stormed through these pages, relishing their clanging explosions of colour and underlying ferocity but clearly outlining the segment's palindrome-like nature, motifs and sound patterns moulded around a central axis with an almost unnerving rigour. Clive O'Connell, The Age, reviewing the 2006 Piano Landmarks mini-festival

This recording of the performance by Michael Kieran Harvey with narration by Peter Cundall of Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux was presented by Ten Days on the Island over the 2nd and 3rd of April 2005 at Morrilla in Tasmania. The event was sponsored by Hydro Tasmania. For further details about Ten days on the Island visit their web site at

"My faith is the grand drama of my life. I'm a believer, so I sing words of God to those who have no faith. I give bird songs to those who dwell in cities and have never heard them, make rhythms for those who know only military marches or jazz, and paint colours for those who see none". (Olivier Messiaen)


Michael Kieran Harvey

Australian pianist and composer, Dr Michael Kieran Harvey FAHA, is one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary piano music of his generation. A champion of Australian music and himself a composer, he regularly commissions new Australian music and has performed with Australia's leading contemporary music ensembles and orchestras.

Peter Cundall

Peter Cundall has been gardening since he was a child during the 1930s. Born in Manchester England in 1927 he first started gardening after school and during holidays by laying turf lawns. Today, Peter is best known as a long-running presenter of Gardening Australia on ABC TV.

Press quotes

“A bizzare double act but it works . . . . with its excellent liner notes and fierce artistic commitment it reaffirms Kieran Harvey's place at the forefront of Australian pianism”

— Martin Buzacott, Limelight

Catalogue d'oiseaux is a work of prodigious dimensions, a phantasmagoria of sounds and forms, some airy and mysterious, others monumental, incandescent with emotion, framed by the composer to reveal with crystalline acuity the birdsong he recorded for years and the creatures' characters and habitats ... The narrator, ABC gardening expert Peter Cundall, was, like Messiaen, a naturalist, bird-lover and prisoner of war in the 1940s. The empathic Harvey-Cundall partnership, and its championing of nature, was generous and sincere.”

— Lee Christofis, The Australian

“The music calls for pianistic daring and stamina, qualities Kieran Harvey has in abundance. He delivers the music with unflagging zest for the project and the belief it is both a statement about and record of declining avian species on our planet largely though human greed. He gives the music's clusters and flashes of sound a virtuosic sweep with the sheer dynamism of his style and a tinkling clarity like - well, bird song actually”

— Patricia Kelly, Brisbane Courier Mail

“Few Australian pianists can touch Michael Kieran Harvey, one of the most exciting exponents of contemporary music in the country”

— Clive O'Connell, The Saturday Age

“This is a monumental achievement in anyone's terms”

— Tony Way, The Age - Green Guide

“Another fine release from the ever adventurous Move label”

— David Hood, 3MBS FM Libretto

“...Kieran-Harvey's pianisim is superb. He is truly one of the most, if not the most, interesting pianists in the country...”

— Patrick Holland, 4MBS Program Guide

Audio preview

Track Listing

  1. Peter Cundall introduction / part 1 2:53
  2. Narration and motifs: The Alpine Chough 4:13
  3. I. The Alpine Chough Olivier Messiaen 7:21
  4. Narration and motifs: The Golden Oriole 3:08
  5. II. The Golden Oriole Olivier Messiaen 7:33
  6. Narration and motifs: The Blue Rock Thrush 3:24
  7. III. The Blue Rock Thrush Olivier Messiaen 13:02
  8. Narration and motifs: The Black-eared Wheatear 6:54
  9. IV. The Black-eared Wheatear Olivier Messiaen 14:21
  10. Narration and motifs: The Tawny Owl 2:00
  11. V. The Tawny Owl Olivier Messiaen 5:48

Disc 2

  1. Peter Cundall introduction / part 2 1:52
  2. Narration and motifs: The Woodlark 1:42
  3. VI. The Woodlark Olivier Messiaen 7:12
  4. Narration and motifs: The Reed Warbler 10:57
  5. VII. The Reed Warbler Olivier Messiaen 27:54
  6. Narration and motifs: The Short-toed Lark 2:22
  7. VIII. The Short-toed Lark Olivier Messiaen 5:22
  8. Narration and motifs: Cetti's Warbler 5:57
  9. IX. Cetti's Warbler Olivier Messiaen 10:33

Disc 3

  1. Peter Cundall introduction / part 3 :27
  2. Narration and motifs: The Rock Thrush 5:16
  3. X. The Rock Thrush Olivier Messiaen 16:33
  4. Narration and motifs: The Buzzard 3:26
  5. XI. The Buzzard Olivier Messiaen 9:43
  6. Narration and motifs: The Black Wheatear 3:04
  7. XII. The Black Wheatear Olivier Messiaen 8:01
  8. Narration and motifs: The Curlew 4:43
  9. XIII. The Curlew Olivier Messiaen 12:14


  • Michael Kieran Harvey · piano · tracks 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 2-3, 2-5, 2-7, 2-9, 3-3, 3-5, 3-7 and 3-9
  • Peter Cundall · reader · tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 2-1, 2-2, 2-4, 2-6, 2-8, 3-1, 3-2, 3-4—3-6 and 3-8


Olivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations.

Where to buy

Catalogue d'oiseaux is available for download from the iTunes Music Store.
It's available for streaming through Apple Music.

Catalogue d'oiseaux is available as as CD. It can be purchased online through Buywell Music or the Australian Music Centre which both offer secure online ordering.

Move CDs can be ordered through music retailers across Australia including Readings.

Product details

List price
$35.00 AUD
Total playing time
207 minutes 55 seconds
Release date
© 2005 Move Records
℗ 2005 Move Records
Classical, Keyboard, Spoken word
Catalogue number
MD 3299
Alternate catalogue number
EAN 9314574329926