Saturday, May 30, 2015

Messiaen and Debussy from the Philharmonia

Sophie Bevan and Anne Stephany

4 Keyboards!
Took my sister to a truly wonderful concert on Thursday at the Festival Hall. This was part of the Philharmonia's City of Light series which is music from Paris 1900-1950. After the flute soloist and principal flute Samuel Coles gave us Syrix we had an excellent performance of La Demoiselle Elue with the great Sophie Bevan and Anne Stephany as the soloists. This is based on Dante Gabriel Rosetti's poem about a girl in heaven waiting for her lover. In any normal concert this would have been the high point!

BUT after the interval we had Messiaen's monumental 10-movement Turangalila-symphonie which is arguably in fact a concerto for 4 keyboard instruments: Piano, Ondes Martinot, Celeste and Keyed Glockenspiel (!) brilliantly played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Valerie Hartmann-Claverie, Elizabeth  Burley and Helen Crayford. These all have pretty amazing bios - Aimard could have conducted the work, Burley and Crayford are celebrated pianists and could presumably have played the solo piano, and Harman-Claverie seems to be the world's premier Ondes Martinot player and collaborated with Messiaen!

It is impossible to describe the impact of this monumental work. It is deliberately an overwhelming piece both in scale and scope, and the underlying theme is that of sacrificial love: human and ultimately divine. I wish I had time to listen to it again because the first time you just have to experience such a piece but it would be great to start to begin to understand it. The original piano soloist Yvonne Loriod, was Messiaen's pupil and became second wife after his first wife died in 1959.

Leonard Bernstein conducted the first performance - it was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra - and this concert was superbly conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Just tremendous!

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