9 June 2004

20th Century symphony

Earlier tonight as I was out recyclin' and grocery shoppin', WABE replayed the ASO's April performance of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalīla-symphonie (the one made famous in Futurama). I'm continually stunned by that work.

As a pianist, I've got the standard over-appreciation of piano works, and Messiaen's are no exception. However, I think his style may work better in an orchestral setting. His early works were influenced by impressionism, and those composers were fascinated with the potential range of orchestral timbers. In fact, French music through history often emphasizes the unique color of unusual instrumentation and orchestration. Messiaen loved the electronic instrument Ondes Martenot (relentlessly trivia-bound to Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead) and used it in his symphony.

I didn't listen to the whole performance. There's only so long you can sit in the parking lot with your uncooked dinner, and I have a recording in My Library in Rhapsody. The magic would have been to hear it live again. I first heard it as a college student when I went to an ASO performance with a couple of friends from the music department. A few of us were captivated (for the entire hour-and-a-half), but one very religious fellow almost walked out. Most of Messiaen's music is based on religious inspiration, but I guess it doesn't gibe well with the Southern Baptist aesthetic.

[ posted by sstrader on 9 June 2004 at 12:09:36 AM in Music ]