Infinite Love: Messiaen’s Turangalila – Naomi Yoran

Following the previous concert, I rejoiced in having the PSO take center stage through an entire program, not sharing the stage with any soloist. I also made the point that it was the only concert of this season "allowing" this great orchestra to do so.

Last concert taught me to "hold my horses" and not jump to conclusions, especially before attending a concert of unfamiliar music.

The title of Massiaen’s orchestral poem was deceiving to the uninitiated: ‘Turangalila-Symphony for Piano, Ondes Martenot and Orchestra’, Not ever having heard this music before & reading the title, where the piano & the ondes martenot precceded the word ‘orchestra, I concluded that the pianist, Marc-Andre Hamlin and Jean Larendeau, the performer of the ondes martinot, will surely be the star soloists. I was wrong.

Turangulila’ is a monumental orchestral work where the "official" soloists are integrated in the orchestra as I haven’t ever experienced before.

As I usually do prior to listening to unfamiliar music, I did not read the program notes, wishing to absorb it without any written text, even those of the composer. I did, however go on stage prior to the concert & observed Jean Laurendeau introducing the unique instrument: ondes martenot, and was amazed of the range of its sounds & variety of pitch. I welcomed Daniel Meyer’s pre-concert introduction to the music’s main theme: Wagner’s adopted mythological narrative of Tristan & Isolde and Sir Andrew Davis’ commentary on the composer & his music.

But, when the music started all vanished and I was left to absorb the music filling up the space. The experience was so overwhelming in its enormity that I became totaly detached from the physical environment. It was a unique feeling, hard to articulate in words: Time past without feeling Time. Was it a glimpse of knowledge of infinity? the Divine? the entire universe? It was all those and even more. It was the power of music, live music, which as far as I feel, is the ultimate expression of Being One with world. Later, reading the program notes, I accepted Messiaen’s religious absorption in the existence of God. For me, his music expressed the only language of humanity experencing love.

1 thought on “Infinite Love: Messiaen’s Turangalila – Naomi Yoran”

  • When I get negative about constantly hearing the same old music at symphony concerts the Turangalila comes to Pittsburgh to remind me that things have changed, at least a little. I first heard the Turangalila on a hard-to-get French mono recording when I was 14. The piece was about 17 years old. I was absolutely sure that I would never hear it live and the LP got worn out. Later there was a great recording by Ozawa, which has been re-released on RCA recently. Then, to my freakin amazement, Andre Previn did it in the (I think) late 70s with the PSO. It was one on the top five greatest musical events in my life. (His performance was beter than Davis’s and it is recorded with another orchestra.) Those concerts were amazing. The audience was very split and half of them booed and half cheered. Very exciting. Previn made speeches at the re-play concerts to try to let the audience know that this was not really the “latest in atonal modern music.” The audience was engaged in a way I’ve never seen in Pittsburgh before or since. Both for and against. I still can’t believe that I’ve had the opportunity to hear the Turangalila live TWICE! And in PIttsburgh. Yikes! Life is complete. I’m ready for my liebestod.

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