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Music for Ondes Martenot

by Jeanne Loriod



JEANNE LORIOD (b. July 13, 1928; d. Aug 2, 2001)
After studying piano with Lazare Levy at the Paris Conservatoire Jeanne Loriod dedicated herself completely at the age of 18 to the Ondes Martenot and entered the Conservatoire National Superiuer de Musique to study in the classes of Maurice Martenot. By the time of this recording, made when she was about age 34, she had a repertoire of eight concertos and 60 chamber works and had played the works of 150 composers, notably including Olivier Messiaen who had become her brother-in-law, marrying Loriod's older sister Yvonne about a year earlier. Her reputation as the foremost Ondist was largely solidified through her virtuoso performances as soloist of Messaien's Turangalîla Symphony. She was a professor at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and toured widely through Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In 1974, she founded a sextet dedicated to the performance of Messaien's "Fête des belles eaux," which she had recorded a dozen years earlier. In 1987, she published a three-volume set of books on the instrument.

OLIVIER MESSAIEN notes regarding the Fête des belles eaux:
It was the year 1937. In addition to the magnificent Exposition which was attracting the curious from the world over, Paris organized festivals of sound, of water, and of lights which, at night-fall, unfolded across the Seine vast visual-audio spectacles where sky-rockets exploding in the sky and the spouting of great jets of water mingled with the harmonies of symphonic scores. For the musical ornamentation of these soirees, Paris commissioned 20 scores from 20 composers.
I was one of the 20. My colleagues chose orchestral works, choral works, or chamber works. I had the idea of writing for an Ondes Martenot sextet. The sounds were to be amplified through loudspeakers placed on all the buildings bordering the Seine. The Ondes Martenot were perfectly suited to such open-air music. Specialized architects supplied me with large, minutely detailed diagrams of the particular festival event that had been assigned to me. The form and the music of the work were thus absolutely dependent on these imposed details. The night is mysterious, the deep water has a funereal aspect, the rockets are gay, playful, light; the fireworks show the same playful character. On the other hand, the fountains of water are furious and terrible, or dreamy and contemplative. it is this latter feeling that predominates, and at the two moments of the climax of the Festival of Beautiful Water, that is, the two times when the water attains its maximum height, one hears a long, slow phrase, nearly a prayer, which makes the water a symbol of Grace and Eternity, according to the words of the Gospel according to St. John: "The water which I shall give will become a spring of water rising up to eternal life."

Jeanne Loriod on the Suite by DARIUS MILHAUD (b. Sept.1892; d. June 22, 1974):
Darius Milhaud followed with lively interest the progress of the Ondes Martenot since its first public recital in 1928. He was approached by Charles Dullin in 1932 to write the incidental music to this Chateau des Papes. The scantiness of the stage of the Theatre de l'Atelier and the variety of the sonorities of the new instrument prompted him to compose a score for Martenot and small orchestra. The composer himself made a new reduction for Martenot and piano which is recorded here. The differences in inspiration of which [the five movements] are the result place in relief the diversity as well as the originality of the timbres and of their registration.

Jeanne Loriod on Lalita by JACQUES CHARPENTIER (b. Oct. 18, 1933; d. June 15, 2017):
From 1953 to 1954 Jacques Charpentier lived in Calcutta where he experienced the revelation of Indian music. He returned to France to enter the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique where, in 1956, he won the first price in Philosophy of Music in the classes of Professor Olivier Messaien and in 1958, the first prize in Composition in the classes of Tony Aubin. Despite his youth, Jacques Charpentier already has to his credit a sizeable catalog of important works.
"Lalita" is the act of Sacred Love which consumes at each new dawn the Earth and the Sun. It is the loving expectation of the Earth that is going to satisfy, for fertilizing her, the solar ardor.
After a melodic solo entrusted to the Martenot, which expresses the nostalgic expectation of the nocturnal world, the metallic percussion joins with trills of the Martenot to sing of the first shivers preceding the coming dawn.
After a short period of repose, the thousand and one flames of the nascent day spread over the Earth in order to produce one single flame and one single brightness in an ecstasy of light. The work ends in the reconciliation of the two elements, united in a new day.

Jeanne Loriod on the Ondes Martenot (ca. 1962):
It was at the end of the war of 1914-18 that a year sergeant commanding a wireless station, Maurice Martenot, noted the extreme purity of the vibrations produced by radio tubes -- a then-recent creation -- and dreamed of using such vibrations to enrich music with new sonorities.
After an initial series of researches in the domains of sound and electronics, the inventor presented to the Parisian public on a May evening in 1928 at the Paris Opera, the world's first electronic musical instrument. It was a triumph!
It was, in fact, a veritable revolution that his instrument portended, both to traditional concepts of orchestration and to the personal expression of the musician. One of the principal qualities of the Martenot is the ability to realize with great facility and unequaled intensity the most subtle expressive intentions.
The Martenot can be played in two ways:
1. At the keyboard (seven octaves) permitting virtuosity equal to that of pianists; the keyboard is extremely flexible, offering to the performer the incomparable advantage of being able to express himself in his own personal vibrato.
2. The "speaking" play: by ribbon (also seven octaves) possessing qualities of inflection identical to those of the voice and of stringed instruments, thus giving the possibilities of glissandi at the will of the executant.
Within reach of the player's left hand is found a small slide where are arranged:
1. A key that serves the same purpose as the bow of the violinist or the breath of the wind player; with one simple touch of the finger one covers the gamut of the intensity from the lightest pianissimo to the most extreme fortissimo. The key also permits varied types of attack.
2. Some small buttons which control the Martenot's loudspeakers and regulate the multiple combinations of timbres, from the pure sound, completely stripped of harmonics, to that of the most complex instruments. The buttons also impart to the speakers qualities which may be described as "metallic" and "flat."
This explains why to this day more than 350 composers have already written for the instrument:
- a repertoire of eight concertos
- about a hundred symphonic works
- some 80 operatic works
- 25 ballets
- 121 chamber works
- 150 incidental scores for the theater
- 500 film scores
In addition, the Martenot has participated in 1,500 radio and television programs, and numerous recordings, several of which have received the Grand Prix du Disque.
Now known and esteemed worldwide, the Ondes Martenot are played by instrumentalists of great talent and are taught at the Conservatoire National Supeirieur Musique de Paris, at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, and at the Schola Cantorum.


released October 12, 2023

Musical director and ondes martenot throughout: Jeanne Loriod
Ondes martenot: Monique Matagne, Renée Recoussine, Karel Trow, Nelly Caron, Henriette Chanforan (tracks 1-3)
Piano: John Philips (tracks 4-8)
Percussion: Didier Duclos (track 9)

Originally released in 1962.
Translations by James B. Rich
Transfers and restorations by Ian Nagoski


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