Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Jeanne Loriod

Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Jeanne Loriod

Article excerpt

Jeanne Loriod

On 20 April 1928 Dimitrios Levidis's Pomme symphonique was premiered at the Paris Opera, The soloist was Maurice Martenot, performing for the first time in public on an electronic device of his own invention. The composer has all but been forgotten, but the ondes martenot continues to startle and seduce listeners with its feverish swoopings and shimmerings, thanks largely to the tireless promotion of its leading exponent, Jeanne Loriod.

Although Martenot was himself a skilled ondist, it was Loriod, born only three months after that historic concert, who was to unlock the instrument's full expressive range. Under her fingers, whether applied to the seven-octave keyboard or the touch-sensitive wire which made possible all manner of heady glissandos, a potentially impersonal resource became a conduit for some of twentieth-century music's most haunting and unforgettable sounds, given perhaps their widest publicity in two minor classics of the silver screen, Lawrence of Arabia and Mad Max, both with scores by a fellow ondist, Maurice Jarre.

Equally if not more important than her film work in promoting the instrument, at least in the minds of concert-goers, was Loriod's brother-inlaw Olivier Messiaen, whose Turangalila symphony (1946-48) features a prominent concertante part, written for Martinot's sister Ginette, but popularised by Loriod. She went on to record the work no less than six times, the first for Vega in 1950 under the direction of Maurice Le Roux, the last for DG in 1988 with the Orchestre de l'Opera de Paris under Myung-Whun Chung.

Messiaen enhanced her repertoire with two further masterworks: the earlier Trois petites liturgies de la Presence divine (1943-44), in which the instrument provides an alluring patina to women's voices, piano, strings and percussion; and his compositional summa, Saint Francois d'Assise (1975-83), where the ondes features in three of the nearly four-hour works eight tableaux.

But Messiaen was not the only leading composer to find inspiration in the sons nouveaux. Older maitres such as Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Edgar Varese, Charles Koechlin, Florent Schmitt, Andre Jolivet and Jacques Ibert had all contributed pieces to the repertoire, and Loriod was quick to take them up. …

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