February 20, 2008


Demystifying Messiaen, With a Little Help From the Birds (ANTHONY TOMMASINI, 2/18/08, NY Times)

One of the best talkers about music in the business, and a formidable conductor to boot, is David Robertson, the music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Robertson brought the orchestra to Carnegie Hall for two programs over the weekend. And at a “Discovery Concert” on Friday night he gave an engaging, informative and unabashedly quirky demonstration of how to demystify a daunting contemporary work for the public.

The work was Messiaen’s visionary, boldly complex and sprawling “Turangalila Symphony,” a 75-minute score composed from 1946 to 1948, when Messiaen was in his late 30s. A practicing Roman Catholic and a musical modernist, he took a fiercely original approach to creating this idiosyncratic work. Written in 10 unconventionally structured movements, “Turangalila” takes its title from a composite of two Sanskrit words with multiple meanings. The piece is a meditation on joy and creation, on love that leads to death as inevitable transcendence of human life and on nature in both its bucolic and violent manifestations.

In a 40-minute introduction, with the orchestra onstage to play excerpts, Mr. Robertson described this cosmic score as “the best possible free-association canvas,” to which listeners can bring their own imagery. But he kept the metaphysics to a minimum, focusing on the musical particulars.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2008 12:00 AM
Comments for this post are closed.