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Messiaen: Turangalîla Symphony

Mannheim National Theatre Orchestra/Alexander Soddy, et al (Oehms)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Turangalîla Symphony
Tamara Stefanovich (piano), Thomas Bloch (ondes martenot); Mannheim National Theatre Orchestra/Alexander Soddy
Oehms OC472   78:25 mins


There are no half-measures with Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony. The ten movements of this irrepressible exploration of uninhibited love, joy, time and eternity combine esoteric modernist experimentation, surrealism, exoticism and the emotional sweep of high Romanticism. Capturing the intricate detail of this multi-layered music on disc without losing the ebullient sweep of Messiaen’s vision is a challenge met only partially by this new live recording.

There is much to admire, such as the verve of the opening, or the soft-grained tenderness at the close of the fourth movement, ‘Chant d’amour II’. The rich palette of Tamara Stefanovich’s vivacious pianism is a constant asset, while Thomas Bloch’s ondes martenot swoops and swirls are finely judged to illumine rather than dominate the texture. The Nationaltheater-orchester Mannheim and their British conductor, Alexander Soddy, certainly know their way around the minutiae of Messiaen’s score. However, they struggle to convey the ebb and flow underneath the music’s often fragmentary surface. As a consequence, they fall short of Messiaen’s sometimes disturbing extremes, not helped by some odd recorded balance, the lower brass entry in ‘Turangalîla I’ being underwhelming rather than ominous. There is plenty of fine playing here, but more passion would be welcome.


Christopher Dingle