Turangalîla, Turangalîla! The Force, the Force!

Rey, the female hero feeling the awakening Force, is fighting for her Tristan. © Charles Thibo
Rey, the female hero feeling the awakening Force, is fighting for her Tristan. © Charles Thibo

Star Wars at the Philharmonie de Luxembourg? Not quite, but the first movement of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony truly reminded me of the battle between good and evil, laser swords drawn, and the eery, spacey soundtrack of Episode VII. It was even more impressive yesterday evening, when performed live by the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela under Gustavo Dudamel with Yuja Wang at the piano and Cynthia Miller  on a device called “Ondes Martenot”  (Martenot Waves) than on my recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra under Riccardo Chailly. This music is very powerful and has had a lasting impression on me, especially in its many subtle tones.

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How a romantic composer got hijacked by the Nazis

Luxembourg under German occupation: Liszt's tune had become the prelude to lies and propoganda. © Marcel Schroeder/Photothèque de la Ville de Luxembourg
Luxembourg under German occupation. © Marcel Schroeder/Photothèque de la Ville de Luxembourg

Oh Franz, what did they do to you? The Austrian composer and pianist Franz Liszt wrote between 1848 and 1854 a wonderful symphonic poem called “Les Préludes” in the best romantic tradition. The “Préludes” reflect the different phases of a human life before death: torments, battles, love, pain, consolation, enjoying nature. But in 1941, the Nazis stole the triumphant tune at the beginning of the first movement and used it until their fall in 1945 as a jingle announcing the weekly army broadcasts with all their propaganda about Germany winning the war!

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The Communists didn’t like funky sound experiments

Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata" is about contrasts. © Charles Thibo
Ligeti’s “Musica Ricercata” is about contrasts. © Charles Thibo

The Communist Party did not welcome revolutions that it had not initiated itself. György Ligeti was not welcome, nor was his music. Not in Hungary, when it was ruled by the Communist Party. But the Communist world broke apart and Ligeti’s music stays on. He is certainly one of the greatest composers of classical music of the 20th century. Et pour cause, as they say in France.

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Searching for the salvation of the soul

Faith, hope and deliverance from all sins - a fresco in the Vatican. © Charles Thibo
Faith, hope and deliverance from all sins – a fresco in the Vatican. © Charles Thibo

Are you looking for answers on this first day of the year? Are you pondering the meaning of life? I would like to invite you to board my time-machine and return to the year 1600. The Renaissance is almost over, the Baroque era has not yet begun. Our destination is Italy, where we meet the composer, organist and choreograph Emilio di Cavalieri’s and enjoy his monumental work “Rappresentatione di anima, et di corpo”, that some consider as the first oratorio ever. You don’t speak Italian? Don’t worry, the music speaks for itself. Continue reading!