Messiaen’s Turangalila, version 2005

This was quite a memorable weekend of music in Cleveland. (At the same time the Cleveland Indians were losing their chance for the 2005 playoffs.)

Last night (Saturday, October 1), I went to the Cleveland Orchestra concert, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. The first part of the program was Stravinksy’s very late Requiem Canticle with a chamber choir from the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. This piece was written during Stravinksy’s “serial phase” in which he swiped some of the concepts of his arch-aesthetic-enemy Arnold Schoenberg and his 2nd Viennese School buddies Berg and Webern. Requiem Canticles is unmistakably Stravinsky, but second-rate Stravinsky, as if he had run out of things to say. I’m assuming that the Cleveland performance was creditable; but it’s not a piece I’m going to run out and buy a recording of, or have a longing to hear again.

The second part of the program was Messiaen’s Turangalila-Symphonie (calling it the second “half” would be incorrect–the Stravinsky lasted less than 15 minutes; the Messiaen, 75). The soloists were the same as a couple of years ago: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano, and Cynthia Millar, ondes-Martenot (that strange electronic keyboard instrument so favored by Messiaen).

This was an absolutely thrilling performance of Turangalila, especially Aimard’s playing, which was alternately tender and caressing and steely. He played from memory (a feat in itself), and was in constant visual communication with Welser-M??st. Aimard is a genius. Several prominent local musicians were gathered in the Severance Hall balcony after the performance exclaiming in unison about Aimard. Franz’s interpretation has matured since the last Cleveland Orchestra performances of this ten movement behemoth. The whole affair seemed less like it was going to run away without him than it had the last time.

At the end there was an ovation–spontaneous, with people on their feet shouting–not one of those timid affairs that are so common these days at Severance Hall where people would give a standing ovation to a slab of beef being drug across the stage. This was a performance worthy of its standing ovation, and multiple curtain calls for the conductor and soloists.

One thought on “Messiaen’s Turangalila, version 2005

  1. I saw that concert, but I went Thursday night. The performance of the Messian was incredible, but the audience ruined it for me. Behind me, a girl about as old as I was decided not to turn her cell phone off. In front of me, an old blue hair that decided to unwrap candy in the middle of the performance……three times. and to my right, an older gentlemen that decided to sleep.

    and snore. Does music have to be for an unintelligent public? Otherwise, a wonderful concert, I was sitting where I could see Aimard’s hands, and it was wonderful.

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