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LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Messiaen: Turangalila-Symphonie
WORKS: Turangalila-Symphonie
PERFORMER: Angela Hewitt (piano); Valérie Hartmann-Claverie (ondes Martenot); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu


It is hard to be indifferent to Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. This ten-movement rambunctious celebration of overwhelming love has far too much going for it: an exotic combination of big juicy tunes, advanced compositional number-crunching and a huge palette of orchestral colour. As a work of extremes, it can also be hard to capture it in the studio.

There is no doubt about the finesse, mastery of playing or effort from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu, nor are there any quibbles about Angela Hewitt’s ability to negotiate the fiendishly difficult solo piano part. The impression, though, is that the carnal frenzy of ‘Joie du sang des étoiles’ barely leaves a hair out of place across the vast ensemble, while the final movement is decidedly genteel. By contrast, the relatively brisk stroll through the sixth movement’s enchanted garden lacks stillness.

This new hybrid SACD is not the first surround-sound Turangalîla, but the multi-channel versions by Riccardo Chailly and André Previn are currently unavailable. It is frustrating, then, that, while the sound is often admirably clear, there are moments of odd balance that disrupt the sense of a natural acoustic, notably the piano almost drowning the entire ensemble in the ninth movement. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong kind of extreme.


Christopher Dingle