2019 has begun, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is keeping January exciting with the premiere of Turangalîla-symphonie, a larger than life symphony by French composer Olivier Messiaen. Under the direction of music director Marin Alsop, the BSO will mesmerize audiences with a full performance of the symphony on January 10th and 13th and dive deeper into the piece during their Off the Cuff performances on January 11th and 12th.

“The Turangalîla-symphonie truly stands alone among pieces of 20th-century classical music,” says BSO general manager Tonya McBride Robles. “Its composer, Olivier Messiaen, drew on a wide-ranging number of influences in creating this work – he incorporated everything from medieval legends to birdcalls to love and spirituality in this work. The result is a composition that is fascinating and enigmatic, requiring over 100 musicians and two soloists to perform. One of the featured solo instruments is called an ondes Martenot, a 20th-century electronic instrument that creates eerie, alien-like sounds when played. This voicing adds another layer of texture to what is already a rich and varied web of sound created by the orchestra. As a performer, it’s a fascinating, and often, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

This is certainly a new experience for many music fans in Baltimore. “This is the first time the Baltimore Symphony has ever performed the Turangalîla-symphonie, and quite possibly the first time it’s ever been performed in Baltimore,” says McBride Robles. “A complete performance of the Turangalîla-symphonie is about 80 minutes in length. It’s an opportunity to sit back and enjoy an uninterrupted period of transcendent music in a way that you’ve almost certainly never experienced a symphony orchestra before.”

This unique symphony will not only be offered in a classical concert, but in the Off the Cuff format – a concert experience for those who like to learn about the history and story behind a symphony. “The Off the Cuff concerts are perfect for those who want to dive a little deeper into the background of the piece. Music Director Marin Alsop uses this format to take audiences with her on a musical journey and explore different aspects of the piece,” says McBride Robles. “For this Off the Cuff program, Marin selects excerpts from the Turangalîla-symphonie and takes questions from the audience following the performance. Marin has such a wealth of knowledge, and her Off the Cuff concerts are highly engaging and entertaining. Our Off the Cuff concert at the Meyerhoff on January 12 is followed by an after-party with live music, food and drink specials – it offers another fun element to the concert-going experience.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the symphony or a long-time BSO fan, Turangalîla-symphonie will be a concert to remember. “The sheer size and scope of the Turangalîla-symphonie is incredible and the way that it makes use of different combinations of instruments is striking,” says McBride Robles. “Whether you are new to the BSO or are a regular patron, these performances will demonstrate just what a symphony orchestra is truly capable of in terms of the unique and mesmerizing sounds that it can produce.

Turangalîla-symphonie will be performed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Thursday, January 10th at 8 pm and at the Music Center at Strathmore on Sunday, January 13th at 3pm. The Off the Cuff Performances will be on Friday, January 11th at 8:15 pm at the Strathmore and Saturday, January 12th at 7 pm at the Meyerhoff. For ticket information, visit BSOMusic.org or call the box office at 410-783-8000.

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Brynn Devereaux
Brynn Devereaux
"Brynn Devereaux is a freelance writer for Baltimore OUTloud. As an arts writer, she enjoys exploring the local arts scene and bringing attention to new books and authors. Brynn is a Scranton expat and a Towson University graduate."