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European-American Topics - Music - Northwest Mahler Festival

Seattle's in for a treat: The Northwest Mahler Orchestra
By Michelle Mathews

Posted August 26, 2007




     The city of Seattle is in for a rare musical treat when the Northwest Mahler Orchestra presents Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony for the first time ever in Seattle.

            Geoffrey Simon, conductor for the symphony, is excited for this opportunity to share his love of music with Seattle.







Geoffrey Simon

 “We hope the cultured audience in Seattle will appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime performance,” Simon said.

            Simon, a native of Australia who now resides in London, said he was discovered in Seattle while promoting his CD and was asked to conduct the Northwest Mahler Festival.

            “I was approached by someone asking me if I was familiar with the Mahler Festival and if I’d be interested in conducting it,” Simon said. The orchestra is comprised of people who “play with a great intensity,” according to Simon.

            Pianist Jay Gottlieb had the opportunity to work with Olivier Messiaen when he was still alive. “[Messiaen] knew exactly what he meant and wanted,” Gottlieb said. “He wrote a song of love. The piece is definitely over the top. It’s cosmic!”

Jay Gottlieb

            Gottlieb said Messiaen wrote this symphony for his wife, inspired by the myth of Tristan and Isolde. “Its fortes are the loudest you’ll ever hear, and the trumpets sounds like Gabriel and you’re in heaven,” Gottlieb said. “It’s very stimulating and diamond-like.”

            Gottlieb and Simon were introduced to each other through the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation, which is sponsoring Gottlieb’s appearance at the Northwest Mahler Festival. The organization is one that finds and promotes young talents.

            Frenchman Thomas Bloch will be playing a rare treasure in the symphony. Bloch is an ondes Martenot specialist who plays one of the only 370 instruments ever made. Bloch described the instrument as one that looks like a keyboard with strings. In addition to playing the ondes Martenot, Bloch also plays the glass harmonica and crystal Baschet. He was asked to perform Messiaen’s Symphony with the orchestra by Simon. Bloch said the group has been rehearsing for one week.









Thomas Bloch

Bloch, who has performed with both Radiohead and the Gorillaz, said his repertoire spans many genres of music. “I get to play Messiaen one day and Motzart another — it’s a good balance,” said Bloch.

The orchestra is comprised of about 100 musicians, including both Gottlieb and Bloch who will be showcasing their talents for one night only at this event.

Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony will be performed as part of the Northwest Mahler Festival on Sunday, September 9 at Benaroya Hall. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets at

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