Maestro Dudamal took to the podium last Thursday night to conduct Turangalîla-symphonie with his trademark locks kept at bay with the assistance of enough hair product to rival Pauly D of Jersey Shore. By the end of the ten movement symphony, the maestro's hair would become as wild and unbridled as the performance illicited from the LA Phil. Unfortunately, before we would be treated to the chaotic bliss Messiaen had intended, we would first have to sit through an under-rehearsed, slicked-back, and rather drab account of Turangalîla.
Turangalîla is Messiaen's ode to love, lust, and sexuality. A symphonic manifestation of passion and climax, with a little pillow talk thrown in for good measure. Messiaen has said his departure point for the symphony was the story of Tristan and Isolde. Like Wagner's Tristen, Messiaen abandons tonality for entire stretches in order to invoke dark and brooding passions and create tension. One need only hear the iconic London Symphony Orchestra recording, under the baton of Andre Previn, to experience the sexual tingle and final release the composer had intended.
Gustovo got the piece half right, at least that was the case on Thursday, the first of three performances this season. Thankfully, that half is the final half. The last five movements come as a complete surprise in a performance where one would be right to just abandon the concert hall mid-way. Initially, the LA Phil seemed ill prepared and under rehearsed. The notes were there, but throughout the first half, they were either poorly executed or all together wrong. During that time, Dudamel carried a faint sense of indifference to the program by rarely turning his eyes away from the score in front of him. As a result, the orchestra was a complete mess. Discordance was replaced by harmony. Where crashing sounds should have been, there were soft and flowing passages.
Thankfully, the maestro's Ritalin kicked in right around "Joie du sang des etoiles (Joy of the Blood of the Stars)." Only then would we see the famed orchestra and praised young conductor at full tilt. Dudamel controlled the podium with vigor and verve. His tremendous (though perhaps overstated and under-established) talent was in full view and the LA Phil's mastery of modern and complex pieces was shown. The blistering fifth movement was handled with feral clarity. Quieter movements that followed were given a gentle lover's touch. And the finale, enhanced by audible grunts from crazed-haired Dudamel, made the audience scream.
Anyone got a smoke?