Saturday, September 06, 2008

Turangalîla/Aimard/Berlin Phil/Rattle - Need We Say More?

You have only three days left to hear it.

is the kind of universe embracing symphony that Gustav Mahler might have written if he had lived into his 90's and been kidnapped by Hare Krishna's. As the great composer, however, survived only to 51 and never visited an airport, it was left to Frenchman Oliver Messiaen to compose the Turangalîla-Symphonie, one of the landmarks of 20th century music, which was debuted in 1949 by the Boston Symphony conducted by a young Leonard Bernstein, who apparently never went anywhere near the work again.

Sprawling across ten movements and 80 or more minutes and deploying a massive orchestra, the Turangalîla was described by its composer as a "song of love." When I first encountered the work, in a performance, again by the Boston Symphony, then led by Seiji Ozawa, in the same Paris concert hall where the 1913 premiere of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps provoked a riot, I was both enthralled and taken aback by the clash of often naive-sounding melodies and jagged, jarring rhythms. Subsequent hearings later, now comfortable with Messiaen's distinctive idiom, I find the Turangalîla one of the most enthralling, ectastic works you're ever likely to encounter.

So, clean out your ears, put your prejudices and expectations aside, and turn here, where, for the next three days only, you'll be able to stream the crackerjack London Proms performance of Turangalîla with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, ondes martenot player Tristan(!) Murail, and the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle. It'll be a great warm-up for the Netherlands Opera Proms performance of Messiaen's six-hour Saint Francis of Assisi, coming up on Sunday.

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