Love Song

A lurid, ecstatic masterpiece gets its Seattle premiere

Olivier Messiaen’s ten-movement, 70-minute Turangalîla from 1948 is about as trippy and sexy as orchestral music gets, or could get. Everything about it is lurid in the extreme: the epic length, the Hollywood harmonies, the lubricious melodies, the overripe movement titles (“Joy in the Blood of the Stars,” “Garden of the Sleep of Love”), along with the usual Messiaen preoccupations: birdsong and Greek- and Hindu-derived rhythms. Then there’s the instrumentation: an acrobatic piano solo, celesta, up to twelve percussionists, and an ondes martenot (cousin to the theremin) in addition to a huge standard orchestra. Participants in the Northwest Mahler Festival first read through the piece in June—it’s harder than hell (I sat in) but an overwhelming experience when it gets cranking, splashing sound all over the place. Sunday’s performance, led by Geoffrey Simon, will be the work’s first hearing in Seattle. With Duke Ellington’s tone poem Harlem as a curtain-raiser, it’ll be a kickoff to the season even more festive than the Seattle Symphony gala the following weekend.

Sun., Sept. 9, 7 p.m.

 
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