Gershwin / Messiaen concert … alien ondes martenot

When I went: 18 July 2018

Music Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

Location: Royal Albert Hall, London

Performers: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Angela Hewitt (piano), Cynthia Millar (ondes martenot)

Creative team: George Gershwin, Messiaen (composers)

Approximate price: £50

Special points: Ondes martenot in Messiaen

Best bit: Turangalîla

If I could change one thing: More balanced programme in terms of timing


The pieces:

Gershwin’s An American in Paris is a gorgeous, jazzy, fun piece that is a good choice for a Prom if you don’t want something too heavy or long.

Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphonie is a lot longer, but broken up into 10 movements, and features both flashy piano solos and cool ondes martenot moments. The ondes martenot is an unusual percussion instrument that sounds a bit ‘alien’, like some of the sounds from Doctor Who, but it works well in this particular piece.

This performance:

As much as I like both these pieces, it was a bit weird to have such a brief first half, an interval, and then a much longer second half; I probably would have switched the pieces around, although they may not have done this due to the logistics of getting the right instruments on and off the stage for this Prom.

The orchestra performed both pieces well, especially the Gershwin, and Angela Hewitt was confident and sparkling in the Messiaen. Cynthia Millar played the ondes martenot; without having ever played this instrument and without knowing much about it, I can’t really comment on how technically ‘good’ her performance was, but it sounded pretty cool.

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