Composed for a somewhat unusual composition of instruments, Messiaen's incomparable quartet was composed in bleak and almost incredible circumstances in 1940. Following his capture and deportation to a German prisoner-of-war camp in Zgorzelec, the 31-year old Messiaen encountered three fellow professional musicians, and set about composing a trio for them. An interested guard provided pencils and paper, and helped arranged the acquisition of a ramshackle set of instruments, and Messiaen re-worked his trio into the Quatuor pour la fin du temps. It was premiered outdoors in dreary weather for an audience of 400 guards and inmates - some of whom had contributed funds to buy the cello - which Messiaen later described as the most attentive and understanding he'd ever encountered. With the assistance of the sympathetic guard, Messiaen - along with the violinist Jean le Boulaire and cellist Étienne Pasquier - were liberated not long afterwards. The clarinettist, Henri Akoka, although freed at the same time, was returned to the camp because of his Jewish appearance. The Algerian Akoka staged a daring escape some months later, successfully flinging himself and his clarinet atop a moving train. He returned to his previous life in a French broadcasting orchestra and never performed Quatuor pour la fin du temps again, acknowledging it as "the only memory of the war that I wish to keep".