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on 11 February 2010
I had read some negative pr tepid reviews of this performance of Messiaen's eccentric symphony by Kent Nagano at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic.
But I was very pleasantly surprised when I heard it.

Premise: there isn't an absolutely ideal, definitive performance of any composition. From each performance or recording one can take away the best it can offer. That said, this is a slick, energetic, exciting reading.

The Berlin orchestra is, as always, a dream: unmatched for smoothness and sheer force.
And Nagano approaches the work with speed and ferocity, moving it along (usually where appropriate) at an adrenalinic, frenzied pace. I am not sure this is only due to his interpretation: it might be that that particular orchestra allows him to take it fast (where others might have trouble playing it at that speed).

I would say the main difference between this performance and all the others I have heard (Previn, Salonen, Ozawa) is the sonic positioning of the Ondes Martenot instrument. Where other conductors (especially Salonen) place it in the very foreground, giving it great prominence, Nagano opts for a very discreet approach and "hides" it in the background most of the time. One knows it is there, but its voice is not a protagonist, just an added color. Though I love the instrument, I did think Salonen went overboard a little: placed in the very foreground, it gives the piece a loony, trashy sound that Nagano denies us.

This is a live recording, as opposed to a studio recording, so some lack of detail and clarity is to be expected. The placement of the orchestra sections, and the general "volume" of the performance, seem more discreet and less "in-your-face" than, say, Ozawa's or Previn's.

But my only real reservation is with the very final chords of the finale: Nagano fools around with the volume of the brass in the first sounding of their chord, giving it a flashy, loud crescendo that takes away the impact of the ending itself (the first chord is perceived as louder than the last). I think he does that to show off the versatility and strength of the orchestra. But it comes off as an empty virtuosity. Salonen, for example, refrains from that early flash but really pushes the final crescendo and holds the last chord much longer, giving out a sense of real power. Very exciting.
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on 26 May 2012
I couldn't believe my luck here. Having just listened to BBC Radio 3's Building a Library, in which various recordings of the Turangalila Symphony were compared (with this one coming out on top) I logged on to Amazon and found that there was a cheap MP3 available of this normally full priced item. How wonderful to be able to obtain a great recording of a great piece of music for under £3 - yeah, I know, but times are hard!

As for the music itself - I'm guessing that if you've taken the trouble to investigate this and other recordings of Turangalila, and read this and other reviews, you'll already know what to expect. If you need a more in-depth account of the piece, you won't have any problems finding informative and knowledgeable imput elsewhere - certainly better than I could offer. But as for this particular recording, I have to say I fully agree with the opinions of the Radio 3 reviewer: the scope, the nuance, the light and shade, the poetry and the dynamic are something special, and this recording manages to capture these qualities brilliantly.

Incidentally, if you've never downloaded from Amazon before, you'll find the whole procedure very straightforward and user-friendly.
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on 18 March 2014
Having just heard a live rendition of this at the weekend, I was very keen to get a copy of this symphony, and at less than £3, what could go wrong? Well, in direct contrast to other reviewers, I think that the Ondes Martenot is mixed too far down and is barely audible for much of the performance. After all, it's that unusual instrument that makes this piece different. It's like listening to Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony without the organ. The piano mix is a bit better, but still could be a shade more prominent.
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on 18 August 2015
A good recording of an interesting work. It keeps the piano as part of the orchestra. Some engineers treat this like a piano concerto and lose the whole point and atmosphere of the work.
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on 1 June 2014
This is a hard work to record and Nagano et al do a stunning job. Brought the after a great performance by the RSNO but this is in a whole different universe!
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on 30 August 2014
A very strong interpretation as expected from Nagano. A particularly well balanced orchestral performance by the Berlin Phil.
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on 19 September 2014
Clarity and exuberance. So interesting to realise how instantly recognisable this is now
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