Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 1. Introduction
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 2. Chant d'amour 1
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 3. Turangalîla 1
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 4. Chant d'amour 2
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 5. Joie du sang des étoiles
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 6. Jardin du sommeil d'amour
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 -7. Turangalîla 2
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 8. Développement de l'amour
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie, for piano, ondes martenot & orchestra, I/29 - 9. Turangalîla 3
Messiaen: Turangalîla-symphonie for
piano, ondes Martenot, and orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor
Yvonne Loriod, piano
Jeanne Loriod,ondes Martenot
Koussevitzky Music Shed, August 16, 1975
When the French composer Olivier Messiaen began work on his vast
Turangalîla-symphonie in 1946, he had not produced a new
orchestral work since 1932. Instead he had concentrated on
major works for organ and piano. And during the year he had
spent in a German camp for prisoners of war, he had written what
later became his most famous piece, the Quartet for the End of
Serge Koussevitzky commissioned Turangalîla for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Messiaen spent the summer of 1949 at Tanglewood as composer-in-residence; there he met and went over the score with Leonard Bernstein, who conducted the world premiere in Symphony Hall later that year, on December 2.
The word Turangalîla joins two Sanskrit words. For Messiaen, turanga meant "time, which runs like a galloping horse, which slips like sand through the hourglass. It is also movement and rhythm." For Messiaen, lîla meant "play, in the sense of divine action on the cosmos, the play of creation, of destruction and reconstruction, the play of life and death. Lîla is also love. Turangalîla, then, "is a love song, a hymn to joy, time, movement, rhythm, life, death and love."
The piece is a gigantic work in 10 movements that lasts about 80 minutes. It is infinitely complex, particularly in matters of harmony, rhythm, and orchestration. In addition to a huge traditional ensemble, Messiaen calls for a large ensemble of percussion instruments - it takes a minimum of eight musicians to play them. There is a brilliant role for the solo piano that he composed for Yvonne Loriod, who later became his wife, and a startling role for the wailing electronic instrument, the ondes Martenot, a part that for many years was played exclusively by Loriod's sister Jeanne. Other dimensions of complexity include the ways in which it represents Messiaen's interests in birdsong, the rhythms of Indian classical music, synesthesia (the link between sound and color), and Wagner's musical and philosophical approach to love and death in Tristan und Isolde. It wasn't just a question of philosophy: his beloved first wife had lost her memory and was slowly dying in an institution, and he was falling passionately in love with Yvonne Loriod.
All this, and more, is an invitation to analysis, and in fact books have been written about Turangalîla. But Messiaen didn't compose his music for the analysts, and he made certain that general audiences could follow the basic structure by using simple themes that cycle through the work - a flower theme, a "statue'' theme that represents every brutal force that love must overcome, and a love theme. And he created a spectacular soundscape; for all of its intellectual superstructure, this music makes a primal, visceral impact. Maybe even too much impact:pages in the score do not back away from blatancy, and the Hollywood dimensions of the piece have been the objects of criticism and ridicule ever since the premiere. A recent review of a performance of the piece led Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed to sum up the attitude of many musicians by respectfully but wittily describing it as "an 18-wheeler of a symphony on a joy ride, with French plates, Sanskrit graphics, the eerie whine of a UFO, horsepower and torque you wouldn't believe, [and] a voluptuous sleeper in the cabin for euphoric sex."
Seiji Ozawa has been an advocate for the music of Messiaen
throughout his career. In 1967, when he was still the music
director of the Toronto Symphony, he made the first major
international recording of Turangalîla,a performance so
impressive that it remains available 45 years later. He
conducted performances of the piece both in Symphony Hall and at
Tanglewood, and in 2000 conducted it with the BSO in Paris and
Cologne. Perhaps the most important premiere of his career was
Messiaen's masterpiece, the opera Saint François d'Assise
at the Paris Opera in 1983.
Ozawa's performance called on all of his formidable organizational skills and his belief in the power of this work, and the orchestra responded with a performance that may still be echoing through the Berkshire Hills. In the summer of 1975, Messiaen was again composer-in-residence at the Tanglewood Music Center, so he was present at this performance. The audience bursts into wild applause and shouting at the end, and you can hear the redoubled reaction when announcer William Pierce describes the arrival onstage of the composer. Following the concert, Messiaen autographed and inscribed Ozawa's conducting score, "To the great Seiji Ozawa - his symphony."
"Sometimes as the weeks roll by at Tanglewood, you wonder what the BSO can do to top its previous standards of excellence. The Turangalîla performance under music director Seiji Ozawa just about topped them all. Seldom has the orchestra sounded so brilliant, so firmly in command of music which, given less brilliance and control, could easily have become an hour and a half of chaos. And it was Ozawa who, with an astonishing display of rhythmic sense and organizational ability, pulled the sprawling work together in a dazzling vision of ecstasy.''
Andrew L. Pincus, The Berkshire Eagle