I Want to Pet the Penguin – Blog Host Jeff

There is a lot of excitement in the hall this week as we
prepare for the second to last Mellon Grand Classics weekend of the season. This concert set features, really, only one
piece, Messiaen’s rarely played Turangalila Symphonie.

To be perfectly honest, I have never heard this piece live
nor even as a recording. So, I’m in the
same boat as many of you, I imagine. To
further complicate matters, this piece, from what I’m told, is extremely…well…thick. Among other things, it integrates birdsong,
the Tristan and Isolde story, Hindu mysticism, and an odd instrument called the
ondes martinot (engineered by the same guy that invented the theremin aka the “wwooOOOOooooOOOOooo”
instrument used in many a classic horror film).

Fortunately, from the beginning, we targeted this concert as
an “entry points” weekend. This means
that beginning one hour before the show, several corners of the hall will be
opened with activities that break down the elements of the piece. This will be followed by explanations and
excerpts of the piece during a short first half. All of these items lead to what will
hopefully be a better understanding of the entire work when it is played on the
second half.

What am I looking forward to the most besides hearing
Turangalila live for the first time? Two
preconcert activities: the ondes martinot demonstration (click here for a
sample) and…the penguin that the National Aviary is going to bring (think
birdsong)!

One Response to “I Want to Pet the Penguin – Blog Host Jeff”

  1. Ted spickler says:

    I bumped into this massive symphony at Tanglewood one summer a long time ago and was totally blown away! Incredible complex of sounds that sometimes rise to near ear splitting moments of exultation. It was particularly pleasing that tonal melodies can be heard driving the piece so it’s not just modern academic exercises in mental gymnastics – there is real emotion in there. Now I am thinking that something is wrong that I have not made plans to come hear it! Better fix that FAST!

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May 31