Turangalîla is one of those works that is always an event and a challenge. Messiaen’s joyous amalgamation of unfettered emotion and experiments in musical time is incredibly rich in detail, yet remarkably direct in expression. For that reason, while there are many notes to negotiate, any performance must keep sight of the romantic, sometimes disturbing, core of the work.
This is clearly understood in this performance from Juanjo Mena and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Whether it is the imposing ‘statue theme’, the swooning love music or the unsettling passages inspired by Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, the essentials are there. Some gear changes in the jumps between apparently disparate chunks of music are a little stiff, but the pacing of moments such as the main climax (of many) in the ‘Développement de l’amour’ is masterfully handled, as is the subsequent dispersal of energy. The end of the riotous ‘Joie du sang des étoiles’ is less shattering than most, but merely due to Mena keeping a little something in reserve to ensure the end of the work is not overshadowed by this explosive halfway point.
The ondes martenot’s electronic swooning can be notoriously difficult to balance. Like the piano, it is a little forward here, even for its status as a soloist, the deep, flatulent growling in the first movement being uncommonly prominent. Steven Osborne (above) brings authority to the piano cadenzas and poetry to the filigree passages, while the orchestra players are clearly having fun.