The Turangalîla-Symphonie is a large-scale piece of orchestral music by Olivier Messiaen (1908–92). It was written from 1946 to 1948 on a commission by Serge Koussevitzky for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
|by Olivier Messiaen|
|Composed||1946–1948 (rev. 1990)|
|Duration||about 80 minutes|
|Date||2 December 1949|
|Performers||Boston Symphony Orchestra|
Yvonne Loriod (piano)
Ginette Martenot (ondes Martenot)
The premiere was in Boston on 2 December 1949, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The commission did not specify the duration, orchestral requirements or style of the piece, leaving the decisions to the composer. Koussevitzky was billed to conduct the premiere, but fell ill, and the task fell to the young Bernstein. Bernstein has been described as "the ideal conductor for it, and it made Messiaen's name more widely known". Yvonne Loriod, who later became Messiaen's second wife, was the piano soloist, and Ginette Martenot played the ondes Martenot for the first and several subsequent performances.
While most of Messiaen's compositions are religious in inspiration, at the time of writing the symphony the composer was fascinated by the myth of Tristan and Isolde, and the Turangalîla Symphony forms the central work in his trilogy of compositions concerned with the themes of romantic love and death; the other pieces are Harawi for piano with soprano and Cinq rechants for unaccompanied choir. It is considered a 20th-century masterpiece and a typical performance runs around 80 minutes in length. When asked about the meaning of the work's duration in its ten movements and the reason for the use of the ondes Martenot, Messiaen simply replied, "It's a love song."
Although the concept of a rhythmic scale corresponding to the chromatic scale of pitches occurs in Messiaen's work as early as 1944, in the Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, the arrangement of such durations into a fixed series occurs for the first time in the opening episode of the movement "Turangalîla 2" in this work, and is an important historical step toward the concept of integral serialism.
The title of the work, and those of its movements, were a late addition to the project, chosen after Messiaen made a list of the work's movements. He described the name in his letters from 1947 to 1948. He derived the title from two Sanskrit words, turanga and līlā, which he explained thus:
- "Lîla" literally means play – but play in the sense of the divine action upon the cosmos, the play of creation, destruction, reconstruction, the play of life and death. "Lila" is also love. "Turanga": this is the time that runs, like a galloping horse; this is time that flows, like sand in an hourglass. "Turanga" is movement and rhythm. "Turangalîla" therefore means all at once love song, hymn to joy, time, movement, rhythm, life and death.
The piece is scored for:
The demanding piano part includes several solo cadenzas.
In writing about the work, Messiaen identified four cyclic themes that reappear throughout; there are other themes specific to each movement. In the score the themes are numbered, but in later writings he gave them names to make them easier to identify, without intending the names to have any other, literary meaning.
|Introduced by trombones and tuba, this is the statue theme. According to Messiaen, it has the oppressive, terrible brutality of ancient Mexican monuments, and has always evoked dread. It is played in a slow tempo, pesante.[a]|
|This is the flower theme. It is introduced by two clarinets.|
|This theme, the most important of all, is the love theme. It appears in many different guises, from hushed strings in movement 6, to a full orchestral treatment in the climax of the finale.|
|A simple chain of chords, used to produce opposing chords on the piano and crossing counterpoints in the orchestra.|
The work is in ten movements, linked by the common themes identified above, and other musical ideas:
- Introduction. Modéré, un peu vif
A "curtain raiser" introducing the "statue theme" and the "flower theme", followed by the body of the movement, which superimposes two ostinato groups with rhythmic punctuations. A reprise of the "statue" theme closes the introduction.
- Chant d’amour (Love song) 1. Modéré, lourd
After an atonal introduction, this movement is built on an alternation of a fast and passionate theme dominated by the trumpets, and a soft and gentle theme for the strings and ondes.
- Turangalîla 1. Presque lent, rêveur
Three themes are stated: one starting with a solo clarinet, the second for low brass and strings, and the third a sinuous theme on the woodwinds. The movement then develops and, later, overlaps the themes, with the addition of a new rhythm in the percussion.
- Chant d’amour 2. Bien modéré
Introduced by a scherzo for piccolo and bassoon, this movement is in nine sections, some of which recall and develop music heard earlier. A calm coda in A major brings it to a close.
- Joie du sang des étoiles (Joy of the Blood of the Stars). Vif, passionné avec joie
A frenetic dance whose main theme is a fast variant of the "statue theme". For Messiaen, it represented the union of two lovers seen as a transformation on a cosmic scale. The dance is interrupted by a shattering piano cadenza before a brief orchestral coda.
- Jardin du sommeil d’amour (Garden of Love’s Sleep). Très modéré, très tendre
The first full rendition of the "love" theme in the strings and ondes is accompanied by idealized birdsong played by the piano, and by other orchestral coloristic effects. According to Messiaen, "The two lovers are enclosed in love's sleep. A landscape comes out from them..."
- Turangalîla 2. Un peu vif, bien modéré
A completely atonal movement that is intended to invoke terror, with a predominant role for the percussion ensemble.
- Développement d’amour (Development of Love). Bien modéré
For Messiaen, the title can be considered in two ways. For the lovers, it is terrible: united by the love potion, they are trapped in a passion growing to the infinite. Musically, this is the work's development section.
- Turangalîla 3. Bien modéré
A theme is introduced by the woodwind. A five-part percussion ensemble introduces a rhythmic series that then sustains a set of superimposed variations on the woodwind theme.
- Final. Modéré, presque vif, avec une grande joie
The movement is in sonata form: A brass fanfare, coupled with a fast variation of the "love theme", is developed and leads to a long coda, a final version of the "love" theme played fortissimo by the entire orchestra. The work ends on an enormous F♯ major chord. In Messiaen's words, "glory and joy are without end".
The composer's initial plan was for a symphony in the conventional four movements, which eventually became numbers 1, 4, 6, and 10. Next, he added the three Turangalîla movements, which he originally called tâlas, a reference to the use of rhythm in Indian classical music. Finally, the 2nd, 5th, and 8th movements were inserted. Early on, Messiaen authorized separate performance of movements 3, 4, and 5, as Three tâlas (not to be confused with the original use of the term for the three Turangalîla movements), but later came to disapprove of the performance of extracts.
|Roger Désormière||Orchestre National de la RTF||Yvonne Loriod||Ginette Martenot||INA||[full citation needed]||1950||Live recording on 25 July 1950, of the European premiere at the Aix-en-Provence Festival|
|Hans Rosbaud||SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden||Yvonne Loriod||Ginette Martenot||Wergo||[full citation needed]||1951|
|Maurice Le Roux||Orchestre National de la RTF||Yvonne Loriod||Jeanne Loriod||Vega/Accord||
||Recording supervised by Messiaen in 1961. Released in France|
|Jean Fournet||Netherlands Radio Philharmonic||Yvonne Loriod||Jeanne Loriod||Q Disc||[full citation needed]||1967||Live|
|Seiji Ozawa||Toronto Symphony Orchestra||Yvonne Loriod||Jeanne Loriod||RCA||[full citation needed]||1967|
|André Previn||London Symphony Orchestra||Michel Béroff||Jeanne Loriod||EMI||SLS 5117||1977||Double LP|
|Louis de Froment||Orchestre Symphonique de RTL||Yvonne Loriod||Jeanne Loriod||Forlane||[full citation needed]||1982||Live|
|Esa-Pekka Salonen||Philharmonia Orchestra||Paul Crossley||Tristan Murail||
|Simon Rattle||City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra||Peter Donohoe||Tristan Murail||EMI||
|Myung-Whun Chung||Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille||Yvonne Loriod||Jeanne Loriod||Deutsche Grammophon||0289 431 7812 9||1990||CD||First recording of the revised version, supervised by Messiaen.|
|Riccardo Chailly||Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra||Jean-Yves Thibaudet||Takashi Harada||Decca||
|Marek Janowski||Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France||Roger Muraro||Valérie Hartmann-Claverie||RCA||[full citation needed]||1992|
|Yan Pascal Tortelier||BBC Philharmonic||Howard Shelley||Valérie Hartmann-Claverie||Chandos||CHAN9678||1998||CD|
|Antoni Wit||Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra||François Weigel||Thomas Bloch||Naxos||8.554478-9||December 1998||CD|
|Hans Vonk||Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra||Garrick Ohlsson||Jean Laurendeau||Pentatone||[full citation needed]||1999||Live|
|Kent Nagano||Berliner Philharmoniker||Pierre-Laurent Aimard||Dominique Kim||Teldec||8573-82043-2||2001||CD||Live recording in March 2000 in Berlin|
|Norichika Iimori||Tokyo Symphony Orchestra||Kazuoki Fujii||Takashi Harada||Canyon||[full citation needed]||2001|
|Ryusuke Numajiri||Japan Philharmonic Orchestra||Ichiro Nodaira||Takashi Harada||Exton||[full citation needed]||2002||Live|
|Thierry Fischer||BBC National Orchestra of Wales||Roger Muraro||Jacques Tchamkerten||BBC Music||[full citation needed]||2006||Live|
|Hiroyuki Iwaki||Melbourne Symphony Orchestra||Kaori Kimura||Takashi Harada||ABC Classics||4812873||2007||CD||Live recording in 1985. Re-released 2007.|
|Sylvain Cambreling||SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg||Roger Muraro||Valérie Hartmann-Claverie||Hänssler Classic||93.225||2008||CD|
|Juanjo Mena||Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra||Steven Osborne||Cynthia Millar||Hyperion||A67816||2012||CD|
|Hannu Lintu||Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra||Angela Hewitt||Valérie Hartmann-Claverie||Ondine||ODE12515||2014||CD|
|Yutaka Sado||Tonkünstler Orchestra||Roger Muraro||Valérie Hartmann-Claverie||Tonkünstler Orchestra||TON2005||2018||CD|
- Program notes provided with the Naxos Records recording by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra with François Weigel (piano), Thomas Bloch (ondes Martenot) and Antoni Wit (conductor).
- Thomas Barker, "The Social and Aesthetic Situation of Olivier Messiaen's Religious Music: Turangalîla-Symphonie." International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music. 43, no. 1 (2012): 53–70; citation on 53
- Andrew Ford (2012). Try Whistling This: Writings about Music. Collingwood, Victoria.: Black Inc. p. 261. ISBN 9781863955713.
- Full score, pub, Durand.
- Peter Hill and Nigel Simeone (2005). Messiaen. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10907-5.[page needed]
- Messiaen, Olivier (2004) . Turangalîla-Symphonie (CD liner booklet). Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille, Myung-whun Chung, Yvonne Loriod, Jean Loriod. Deutsche Grammophon. p. 1. DG 431 781–2.; Page, Tim (20 February 2002). "Live Online: Classical Music Forum". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
- Robert Sherlaw Johnson, Messiaen, revised and updated edition (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1989): 94, 192.
- Hill 2005, 172
- Hill 2005, 171
- Turangalîla-Symphonie The Philharmonia Orchestra's Olivier Messiaen Website. Featuring films, photos, documents and much more. An interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen, a look at the percussion used and a visit to the site of the premiere in Boston.
- Programme notes for the Turangalîla-Symphonie by Luke Berryman
- About the ondes Martenot : facts, videos, pictures, recordings, players...
- Audio excerpts from all 10 movements of the Symphonie