Messiaen: Turangalîla Symphony

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Turangalîla Symphony
PERFORMER: Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano), Dominique Kim (ondes martenot); Berlin PO/Kent Nagano
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-82043-2
Hold on to your seats! Few can match Kent Nagano’s exceptional pedigree in Messiaen’s music, but there has been little to prepare for this blistering account of the Turangalîla Symphony. The furious opening string entry sets the scene and his tempi are never less than purposeful. This is achieved without giving short shrift to the more tender moments of this richly varied work, and there is no sense of mere flashy showmanship as found in the empty excitement of Chailly’s (Decca) soulless reading. Nagano’s success stems from two factors. First, while the Berlin Philharmonic is a top orchestra, this music is certainly not in the players’ blood. Far from being problematic, this actually cultivates an energising creative tension. Secondly, the piece has been recorded live, with the consequence that, if not absolutely note perfect, this performance captures the spirit of the work better than any studio recording. It has bucket-loads of verve and passion, yet lacks none of the finesse found in Myung-Whun Chung’s curiously understated version (DG). Nagano is aided by two outstanding soloists. Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s tigerish pianism is perfectly suited to this work, a way of playing which was regarded as a substantial flaw by some in his recording of Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus, but becomes a virtue in Turangalîla. The recorded sound is mostly excellent, even if there are inevitably occasional problems of balance in capturing a work of this textural complexity in concert conditions. For an excellent studio version, try Previn (EMI), but for the best live performance of Turangalîla, Nagano wins hands down. Christopher Dingle

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