Yale Philharmonia played Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie here in New Haven last night. They’re repeating it tomorrow night at Carnegie. If you’re in NYC and have the evening free I urge you to go hear it. I know everyone’s probably Messiaen’ed out by now (and it’s not often one can say that) but to hear this piece live is really a special occasion. Even though the piece is really long— about 80 minutes— the concert feels short, thanks to Reinbert de Leeuw’s brisk, almost neoclassical reading; it reminds me of the way Boulez does Mahler— he doesn’t stop to look to the heavens (or look at himself in the mirror).
I’d been obsessed with Turangalîla when I was about 16— probably the appropriate time to be obsessed with that kind of piece— but hadn’t listen to it much recently. Coming to it with fresh ears, I was surprised just how gamelan‑y the music is. Besides the seven or eight percussionists, there’s a central battery of celesta, keyboard glockenspiel (!), and solo piano, all of which seem to play almost constantly. (The sound of that little key-glock cuts through anything. I wonder if the player had any idea just how prominent her instrument was, even from Woolsey’s super-balcony). The sum effect was that kind of massed, jangly sound one hears with Balinese gamelan, smashed together with a loopy Wagnerian orchestra (someone tell Evan Ziporyn).