> DVD - Olivier Messiaen - Turangalila Symphonie [PS]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Olivier MESSIAEN (1908 - 1992)
Turangalîla Symphonie (1948)
Michel Béroff, piano
Jean Loriod, ondes martenot
London Symphony orchestra/André Previn
Recorded Number 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London August 1977 ADD
EMI 7243 4 92398 9 0 [80.16]


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In the history of modern recording the legendary partnership of Andre Previn with the London Symphony Orchestra compares in magnificence with the tenure of Fritz Reiner at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for consistent high quality of repertoire, performance and sonics. Many of these analogue recordings were originally produced in 4 channel surround sound and EMI have now begun releasing them in one of the new DVD sound formats.

There is still confusion surrounding DVD sound disks, regarding format and compatibility with existing players, and several "compatible" formats have emerged in which the same disk is playable in several ways. This double sided EMI disk contains the same program in four formats. Side A will play on DVD players (but not on CD players) and contains a four channel ("4.0") AC-3 encoded surround sound format recording and a 2.0 channel Linear PCM stereo version of the identical program in "48/24," that is, 48KHz sampling frequency and 24bit sample depth. On the television screen one sees a pleasing abstract still graphic. One may select the tracks using the arrow keys on the remote for the DVD player. One can also switch back and forth between the two sound formats with keys on the remote. On this particular disk there is no informative text video display.

Side B again contains two versions of the identical program, one in 48/24 MLP encoded 4.0 surround sound and one in 48/24 2.0 stereo; however these are only playable on dedicated DVD-Audio players and when this is accomplished the quality of sound improves another quantum jump over side 1. The dynamic range is richer and orchestral detail so clear that following with a score becomes superfluous, most especially in the surround sound version. Once you hear this, you'll not bother to listen to any other part of the disk.

Jeanne Loriod was the composer's sister-in-law, and is a noted performer on the ondes martenot (a sort of keyboard operated Theremin-like electronic instrument) having played in the first recording of this work under the composer's supervision. Pianist Michel Béroff won a first at the Paris Conservatoire in 1966, as well as First Prize in the Olivier Messiaen International Piano Competition and has recorded Szymanowski, French classics, and concertos by Prokofiev, Bartók and Stravinsky for EMI.

The composer explains that turanga is Sanskrit for movement or rhythm, and lila means love in a spiritually playful sense, so Turangalila can be translated as "love dance" or "love music" and indeed the first and third movements (out of 10) are subtitled Chant d'amour. Another movement is entitled, characteristically, "Joy of the Blood of the Stars," followed by "Garden of the Sleep of Love." Although this is one of three works composed by Messiaen in the mid-1940s relating to the Tristram and Iseult legend, and although the texture of the music ranges from the softest to the loudest, from the sweetest to the roughest, it never at any time sounds anything like Wagner. At times the music is quiet, consoling, ethereal, magically beautiful, reflecting, however remotely, the composer's interest in birdsong. But tonality is strained almost to bursting when things really power up, with the pianist rapidly banging double fistfuls of notes, gamelan volleys and artillery fire from the percussion. At such moments the brass are captured braying like a hundred angry elephants, accompanied by wild whoops from the ondes martenot and one is very grateful for every byte of the 48/24 sampling. Yet this wild, innocently raucous sound is surprisingly easy on the ears. The improved dynamic range is also an important advantage (I am extremely sensitive to compressed dynamics, and when listening to compressed recordings often develop a headache and find myself gasping to get my breath). Because of the greater precision, one can tolerate a higher peak volume. I have never enjoyed this music more nor felt closer to it. This is one of the clearest examples in my whole experience with recorded music of superior sound quality fulfilling a truly musical purpose.

For Messiaen aficionados, modern music specialists and sound buffs, a must-have recording. For any music lover, worth a listen.

Paul Shoemaker

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