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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A Puzzle Shrouded in a Cloud of Sound

The mountains have inspired composers as much as the sea. © Charles Thibo
The mountains have inspired composers as much as the sea. © Charles Thibo

Shocked, No. Amused? Definitely. Yesterday evening the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst performed Olivier Messiaen’s piece “Chronochromie” in Luxembourg. Those 25 minutes were an interesting sound experiment and an excellent prelude to Richard Strauss’ symphonic poem op. 64 “Alpensinfonie” that was to follow after the pause.
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Messiaen and the End of Time

End of the world - end of time? © Charles Thibo
End of the world – end of time? © Charles Thibo

Our musical journey has taken us several centuries back with Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Tchaikovsky and Respighi to the dawn of the 20th century. Old stuff. Good stuff, but old stuff nevertheless. Perhaps I can invite you to jump back to the present to discover contemporary composers of classical music? Daring composers like… Olivier Messiaen. Continue reading!