Thursday, 4 September 2008

Prom 64: Yin, Yang, and Chaos Theory

I am a newcomer to Messaien but if I had to pick an exponent of the Turangalila Symphony, I couldn’t have chosen a worthier or better champion than Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Phil.

It is a large abstract piece but with a concrete core and an earth-bound effect. It is also an amazing exercise in juxtaposition: yin vs. yen; man vs. woman; thrust vs. pull; tenderness vs. passion.

This is a symphony of duelling duos intertwining then de-coupling with an energy worthy of a Picasso, though unlike Picasso, the 'Joie' (which recurs often in the notes)
is personified in the union between man and woman, something you don’t often see in his pictures.

The fifth section is in the form of a ballet worthy of a Gene Kelly musical as inflated and daring but equally fun and tongue-in-cheek until something very disruptive mischievously breaks it up creating a happy chaotic scampering, bobbing and clamouring effect.

Is sexual desire the mischievous child/clown and the dance the deeper layer of love? Christmas is here at the end as an eruption of utter joy pushes the orchestra louder than I ever heard an orchestra play at the RAH (NY Phil, eat your heart out).

Then follows the garden where lovers sleep yawning on a lazy post-coital afternoon, finishing with the chimes of times passing.

This is a very pictorial music once you’ve grasped the main theme (thanks to the programme notes). For chaos returns more destructive, random and cruel, but not entirely evil, just majestic and serendipitous.

The duality and battle of extremes fill the second half of the symphony as it surges ever louder into melody chopped and suppressed by chaotic strings (piano excellently played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard) and reaches a level of almost pagan awe which is remarkable considering Messaien was such a committed Catholic to the last. As if his love of woman and his Gallic rejoicing in the beauty of sex were not in conflict with his more religious beliefs. Rather refreshing!

This is a remarkably orchestrated giant of a symphony with a huge message of the wonder of human love in its heart, but it was also made accessible by lucid and clear interpretation for which a novice such as I am cheerfully grateful.

(Zeina Trewin)

RAH Live

Prom 64: Messaien: Turangalila Symphony; Berlin Philharmonic; Pierre-Laurent Aimard (pno); Tristan Murial (ondes martinot).

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