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The TSO on stage performing Turangalîla-Symphonie

The TSO records Turangalîla-Symphonie

October 24, 2023

Marking a pinnacle of its centennial, the TSO will be launching a live recording of French composer Olivier Messiaen's audacious Turangalîla-Symphonie, conducted by Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. This monumental undertaking both echoes our esteemed past and charges forward into an exhilarating future. The recording also debuts our collaboration with the independent record label Harmonia Mundi as a part of a pivotal multi-disc agreement. Something big is coming, get a glimpse of it at the trailer below.

Turangalîla-Symphonie Trailer


Learn About The Piece

Turangalîla came to life between 1946 and 1948. Serge Koussevitzky, the Russian-born conductor who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra to great acclaim for a quarter century, was a champion of new music, and he commissioned Messiaen to write a work of no defined length or instrumentation. The result was an 80-minute, ten-movement magnum opus that Koussevitzky is said to have hailed as the most important piece of classical music written since Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Clearly, he felt his money was well spent.

Inspired by the Tristan myth (via Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde), Messiaen explained the title’s Sanskrit origins as follows: turanga, meaning “time that runs, like a galloping horse” and “that flows, like sand in an hourglass”; lîla, meaning the “divine action on the cosmos, the play of creation and destruction, and also the spiritual-physical union of love.”

Considering how complex these concepts are, Gustavo notes that it’s fitting to convey them “with a massive composition that depicts the contrasting conditions of the human heart. There are really soft, slow-paced, beautifully evocative, sensual, and intimate sections, and there are movements of great rhythmic energy. The richness of dynamics, colours, and emotions is extreme and even, at times, overwhelming.”

“The orchestra is likewise immense,” he continues, “and all the musicians are active, but there is a particular dynamism required of the many percussion and keyboard instruments, including the celesta, glockenspiel, vibraphone, piano, and ondes Martenot.” Indeed, as Messiaen put it, “Keyboard instruments…form within the large orchestra a small orchestra.”