Messiaen: Turangalîla Symphony

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Messiaen
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Turangalîla Symphony
PERFORMER: Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), Takashi Harada (ondes martenot); Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 436 626-2 DDD
Messiaen’s vast erotico-mystical orchestral epic has become the most popular of all his works, as the number of recordings bears out. Its appeal lies in the bold architecture, unabashed generosity and high colour in its combination of musical elements exotic, oriental and lushly sensuous. There is something here for everybody, from New Agers to Modern Music explorers.

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This new Decca set has strong points in its favour. The recording is probably the cleanest yet, the clearest and broadest in range. Every line is audible, but not clinically so: the balance has been achieved to a genuinely musical purpose. The Concertgebouw playing combines accuracy, muscle and an ever-confident sense of direction; Thibaudet’s pianism is of superfine quality. The text used is the newly-made Revised Messiaen Edition, which lends the set an authenticity all its own.

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In the end, however, Chailly’s conducting seems to miss out on total engagement with the mood and atmosphere of each movement. The 1987 Rattle/CBSO version (EMI), though less well recorded, less virtuosic in orchestral delivery and with a less exquisite solo pianist in Peter Donohoe, builds up just the overall radiance lacking here. Max Loppert