Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel at Carnegie Hall – Messiaen’s Turangalîla with Jean-Yves Thibaudet & Cynthia Millar

Messiaen
Turangalîla-symphonie

Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano) & Cynthia Millar (ondes Martenot)

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela
Gustavo Dudamel


Reviewed by: Lewis M. Smoley

Reviewed: 8 October, 2016
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Gustavo DudamelPhotograph: Nohely OliverosOlivier Messiaen’s monumental celebration of the joy of love, Turangalîla, written for piano, ondes Martenot and large orchestra, including an extensive array of percussion, evinces fascinating sonorities, driving rhythmic impulses, contrasting moods – from frivolity to mysticism to sheer joie de vivre.

Turangalîla, written between 1946 and 1948 (revised in 1990), first-performed in 1949 in Boston under Leonard Bernstein, was inspired by the Tristan and Isolde legend, and, as the composer suggests, it is a union that is won through suffering, “a love that is fatal, irresistible and which, as a rule, leads to death.” The title merges two Sanskrit words, for ‘time’ and ‘play’.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra executed rapid passages of thick chords with impressive skill and generating the ethereal aura that permeates slower passages. Brass resounded with rock-solid power, strings stirred the love theme, lithe woodwinds warmed the heart, and steadfast percussion added measurably to the success. Dudamel exhibited firm control, securely negotiating between tempos and moods. He impressively brought out the work’s humorous side of the work, particularly in passages of rapidly descending chromatic chords that sounded much like bursts of laughter.

Cynthia MillarPhotograph: Steve NilssonJean-Yves Thibaudet played the extensive piano part with extraordinary dexterity and riveting forcefulness, as well as with enthusiasm and captivating wit. Cynthia Millar’s skillful and experienced playing of the electronic ondes Martenot added a mystical quality; she is now in three figures as to renditions.

Four motifs predominate, used cyclically: first, the ‘statue’ theme on trombones in ponderous thirds with weighty, terrifying monumentality; the ‘flower’ idea is a caressing phrase on clarinets; the ‘theme of love’ captivates in its liquid lyricism; and the fourth is a stentorian chord progression. Dudamel captured the ethereal aura of love in the mesmerizing sixth movement (‘Garden of Love’s Sleep’). And in the carnival atmosphere of ‘Development of Love’, and again in the ‘Finale’, the musicians reveled in festive exuberance.

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