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Standing as the central, largest and most ecstatic panel of Messiaen’s ‘Tristan’ trilogy (framed by the song-cycle Harawi and the choral Cinq rechants), the Turangalîla Symphony not only calls for a huge orchestra but also features prominent solo roles for piano and ondes martenot. Written, like most of the composer’s piano parts, for Yvonne Loriod, it’s not a role for the average orchestral pianist – and has consequently attracted exponents of the calibre of Paul Crossley, Peter Donohoe, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Pierre-Laurent Aimard. In this new recording by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Juanjo Mena, the pianist is Steven Osborne, following his revelatory recording of Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus and (with Martin Roscoe) Visions de l’Amen.

It’s no surprise that Osborne’s playing is crisp and incisive when called for, and he never fails in the work’s cascading parallel chords or violent cluster trills. Pianophiles will be gratified that his instrument is quite forward in the mix – as are the ondes martenot and cavernous-sounding lower brass. And in the sixth movement, ‘Jardin du sommeil d’amour’, Osborne leads from within, more so than Aimard with the Berlin Philharmonic under Kent Nagao (Teldec). Mena’s tempo here may be slower than the score indicates, but it makes for magical nocturnal wonder, and Osborne becomes a songbird with a central perch, bathed in shimmering strings, ondes martenot, flute and glinting celesta.

The orchestral detail reveals gorgeous layering in the Introduction – though on occasion the playing sounds too easy, falling short on unbridled joy and awe-inspiring monumentality.

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing