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David Hurwitz, January 2009

"Magnificent! Antoni Wit's new recording of Messiaen's phantasmagoric Turangalila Symphony may lack the extreme orchestral virtuosity of versions by Previn, Chailly, or Salonen, but it beats them all in sheer musicality and fidelity to the composer's minutely specified instructions. Consider three quick examples. First, virtually all performances make a huge pause before the introduction of the 'flower' theme, but Wit notices that Messiaen has indicated only a brief comma, or 'breath pause'. Second, all three alternative versions listed above play the finale at close to the tempo of the fifth movement 'Joy of the Blood of the Stars', though Messiaen's designation for this movement is 'Moderately, almost lively, with great joy.' And that's exactly what we get here. Wit's slower tempo gives the piece the symphonic weight that it needs to conclude this great cycle of 10 movements, while the ability to take in all of its fantastic detail reduces the excitement not one bit--just the opposite, in fact. Finally, the way that Wit hangs onto that last luminous chord, with the percussion crescendo approaching the threshold of pain, proves that he understands the music's spirit as much as he strictly obeys the composer's instructions.

Following the score along with this performance is an incredible delight. Wit ensures that Messiaen's rhythms sound with exceptional clarity: the interplay of woodblock, maracas, cymbals, tambourine, drums, and chimes never has made more musical sense. He balances the textural complexities of the three 'love song' movements, especially 'Development of Love', with a supernatural sense of where the primary melodic threads lie. The fulsome, swooning, lyrical themes have just the right ecstatic intensity, the Ondes Martenot adding its characteristically sexy voice without undue spotlighting, thereby avoiding blatant vulgarity. And yet, as the Fifth movement clearly shows, Wit can whip up as big a frenzy as

Arved Ashby
American Record Guide, April 2001

"Wit's partnership with this orchestra has got to be one of the best-kept secrets in orchestradom, one that Naxos has just started to make common knowledge. ...Wit is much to be preferred to some old, creaky in-concert recordings of Turangalila."

Robert Kirzinger
Fanfare, April 2001

"This is curious score, as attested by that apparently objective and birdsong-like piano part versus the neo-Wagnerian love-death throes of the ones Martenot and the orchestra. Wit calls up power when it's needed, which is a pretty good surrogate for wild abandon with a score of this complexity, and at times (for example, in the comparatively languid sixth movement, 'Jardin du sommeil') he allows the soloists to engage in chamber-music give-and-take. The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra is easily the cleanest-playing orchestra of the current crop. Pianist Francois Weigel imbues the difficult piano part with personality, eschewing the crystalline approach of most of his predecessors, including Loriod (in the Chung and Froment recordings), Béroff (Previn), and Paul Crossley (Salonen).

"L'Ascension is an early (1932) orchestral work, dating from just after Messiaen's Conservatoire days. Although an enjoyable piece that presages some of his mature work, especially in its use of asymmetrical rhythms and anticontrapuntal, vaguely exotic melody, this is Messiaen with clear ties to Stravinsky and especially Debussy. Messiaen later transcribed the piece for organ.

"The fine performances are reinforced by a clear acoustic with very good depth. I think this is the Turangalila to have regardless of price, except for that nagging 'definitive' blessing bestowed on the Chung. Do you want two Turangalilas? You don't need two of this lurid, over-the-top behemoth, you need this one only, which is priced below the competition, comes with a nice companion piece (only otherwise available for organ or in a hodgepodge collection as recorded by Chung), and is a very good performance. This conductor and orchestra have been critically acclaimed for their Lutoslawski series, and this recording clearly measures up to that standard. Hopefully they'll go on to record Messiaen's later orchestral scores."

Karl W. Nehring
Sensible Sound, February 2001

"How wonderful it is to have these two fine works by Olivier Messiaen available in this inexpensive two-disc release from Naxos. Even more wonderful are the performance and recording, which equal and in some ways better those available at premium price... Although the sound may lack that last bit of bass power and hall sound, it is clean and clear and well-balanced, allowing the listener to enjoy the music undistracted. What a joy this recording is!"

Arnold Whittall
Gramophone, November 2000

Editor's Choice

"A powerful reading by these superb Polish Musicians...A Turangalila with all the expressive power the score needs, and its equally well-played coupling provides an opportunity to enjoy less frequently heard Messiaen...Devotees of Naxos' ongoing forays into 20th century masterworks certainly shouldn't hesitate."

Christopher Dingle
BBC Music Magazine, October 2000

"The Turangalila Symphony, with its rich blend of exotic and surreal elements rooted in the Tristan myth, is Messian's best-known orchestral work. First broadcast on the BBC in 1951, it caused apoplexy among the corporation's governors, but is now part of the repertoire. The desire to use Turangalila as a showpiece has meant that performances often overlooked the need for the work to be fun and exude an irrepressible joy. The Polish forces on this new account have a strong pedigree in Messiaen's music. Antoni Wit was regarded very highly by the composer, and his recording with the same orchestra of Messiaen's last masterpiece, Eclaires sur l'au-dela... is profoundly moving. The opening of Turangalila is absolutely gripping, quieter moments are beautifully phrased and ebullient passages certainly lack no enthusiasm or joy."

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