Cynthia Millar playing the ondes Martenot

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Grand Palace Hall, Ion Câmpineanu 28, Bucharest, Romania

Make no mistake, THIS was Sir Simon’s final concert with the LSO as its music director. Voix de la nature opens sadly, lower strings soliloquising, woodwinds and other strings adding expression and also a shimmer, melancholy remaining. As ever with George Enescu, the writing may be within traditional means but is entirely personal; so mentioning other composers as references is not really possible or helpful – and these particular ten minutes, sympathetically conducted and played, were once again the work of a pro-tonal if divergent composer.

The LSO meets the ten-movement Turangalîla fairly regularly, and Rattle has led it often, and they have been performing it recently. Therefore this rendition had a lived-in quality without any sense of routine. The hallucinatory music’s giant steps, rapt stillness, glinting colours, enchanted atmosphere, sweet swoons, and daffy rhythms rounded by seismic crescendos, were handsomely rendered – whether walls of sound, the gentlest tinkling, or the balmiest of twilight ambiences – with Peter Donohoe (one of Rattle’s earliest collaborators), a veteran of the demanding piano part, in brilliant if selfless form, and Cynthia Millar, equally experienced in one of Messiaen’s orchestral magnum opuses, exploiting the electronic ondes Martenot (created by Maurice of that name) for a range of sci-fi/haunted house/otherworldly sounds, all these elements lucid and well-balanced in the excellent TV România relay. Ecstasy and exuberance informed the performance’s final measures and a standing ovation greeted it. Antonio Pappano succeeds Simon Rattle and he is off to Bavarian Radio.