Yvonne Loriod, second wife and longterm widow of the composer Olivier Messiaen, has died near Paris, aged 86. An intense and introspective pianist, she was only ever referred to as the wife or widow of a great man.
Loriod undertook that role with due humilty, appearing mostly in performances of her husband’s music. When one saw her in concert in the Turangalila symphony, Messiaen’s most popular work, it was a reminder was that she was the original object of his frustrated sexual desires during the long period of first wife’s physical and mental decline. Yvonne’s sister, Jeanne, often played the ondes martenot in the same work. It was a family show.
Yvonne married the devoutly Catholic Messiaen in 1961; he died in 1992. I never heard Yvonne utter a syllable of regret about her secondary status as wife and relict. On the contrary, like many widows, she devoted the years of mourning to securing posterity for her husband’s music. I did wonder whether in her heart of hearts she might not have hankered for a separate identity. There is a Youtube clip of her playing part of the Alban Berg piano sonata which suggests she had extensive interests beyond Messiaen.
Be that as it may, Loriod revelled in her role as relic, much as the good Veuve must have done when the great champagne maker Cliquot predeceased her. Sic transit gloria mundi.