This weekend I heard a broadcast performance from January 8 (last Friday, from Toulouse) of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, played by the Simon Bolivar (sort-of youth) Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. I have been a full-fledged, unapologetic Dudamel fan since attending his Chicago Symphony debut in April, 2007 (unforgettable Mahler first) the day before it was announced he was taking over LA. I was very excited to hear this.
I've loved Turangalila since the late 1970s and Previn's recording. I was a "completist" for a while, which wasn't hard -- there were only 8 or 9 recordings of it through the '80s. Since 1990, there have been 15 more and I haven't kept up. But the first 9 I know very well. Each and every one is excellent and offers unique insights. It's one of those pieces I feel I'll never really "know" completely, always hearing some detail I'd not heard before, usually thanks to the conductor. I don't think a conductor takes on this work without really believing in it. I hear it live every chance I get (Mehta did a particularly memorable one with the CSO years ago), and I've never left without having had big time goosebumps.
Dudamel also offers some unique touches. But there were no goosebumps. Dudamel's interpretation, I don't think, was the problem. This might be the first instance I've heard where the Bolivar bunch were outmatched by a piece of music (I've heard them in person and they are pretty amazing). Or maybe it was an off night for them? (Dudamel began by dedicating the performance to Boulez who had just died). I think with Berlin or the CSO, Dudamel would probably have achieved those moments of ecstasy all other performances I own or have heard live achieve (he of all people is cut out for this piece). Also, the many "moving parts" too often were just slightly off as far as meshing together. It does make you realize what an amazingly demanding piece this is to play, even almost 70 years after Messiaen wrote the thing.
Any other Dudamel Turangalilas floating around out there -- with Berlin maybe?
January 11, 2015
The "Love" theme from Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony