Yale Philharmonia in Messiaen’s Ecstatic Turangalîla

Sunday night’s performance at Carnegie Hall by the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale under Reinbert De Leeuw was part of the Messiaen Centenary Celebration at Yale (his birthday was December 10th) and is part of a five-event “Yale in New York” series. De Leeuw was a close friend of the composer’s and is a known expert on his music; the performance was assured and luminous. It might be easy to just go for the grand effects, but the so-called “Love song” movements were played with a type of lyricism that stressed the melodic content, with long lines played handsomely by the Yale strings. The sexy swooping of the ondes Martenot was never reduced to a gimmick; the integration of this strange instrument, gorgeously played by Geneviève Grenier, into the orchestral fabric was masterful throughout. Wei-Yi Yang, the pianist, whether hanging out at the top of the keyboard making the most astonishing tinkling sounds or attacking the big cadenzas at the close of the first or fourth movements, was untiring, passionate and poetic. He practically danced during the jazzy sections; it was a joy to behold.

No one held back in the crazed fifth and tenth movements, a veritable orgy of sound. The fifth, “Joy of the Blood of the Stars,” has underpinnings of jazz, broadway, and simple, boisterous fun, with brass blaring brilliantly, and the finale, jumpy rhythms and all, was completed with a long-held chord that left the audience dazed.

Robert Levine

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