Cynthia Millar

Cynthia Millar studied the Ondes Martenot first with John Morton in England and later with Jeanne Loriod, who with her brother in law, Olivier Messiaen, has done so much to bring the instrument to a wider public. Since she first performed the Turangalila-Symphonie at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London with Mark Elder and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, she has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. In November 2009 she celebrated her 100th performance with the Monte Carlo Orchestre Philharmonique under Yakov Kreitzburg. She has worked with conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Andrew Davis, André Previn, Esa Pekka Salonen, Edo de Waart, Leonard Slatkin, Yan Pascal Tortelier, David Roberston, Kent Nagano, Franz Welser-Möst, Mark Wigglesworth, Mattias Bammert, Donald Runnicles, Ilan Volkov, Mariss Jansons, and Gustavo Dudamel. Her many performances have included appearances at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Edinburgh Festival and Luzern Festivals as well as regular appearances at the BBC Promenade Concerts, and with orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco, St Louis and Cincinnati Symphonies, the Cleveland Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, the Sydney, New Zealand and Singapore Symphonies, the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, CBSO, the BBC Orchestras, Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, and Orquestra Sinfónica de Castilla y León. She has recently recorded Turangalila with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra for Hyperion.

Other repertoire includes Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher which in 2011 she performed in a series of concerts conducted by Marin Alsop at the Oregon Bach Festival and then with the Baltimore and London Symphony Orchestras; with Antonio Pappano and the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome; with David Robertson and the BBC Symphony Orchestra; with Libor Pešek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms, and with David Zinman at the Aspen Festival; Varese Equatorial with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas, and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies with the Cleveland Orchestra and George Benjamin, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot, the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms conducted by David Robertson and with the same orchestra at the Barbican conducted by Donald Runnicles. She has recorded this work with the London Sinfonietta and Terry Edwards on the Virgin Classics Label, and then again with the Netherlands Chamber Choir.

Cynthia Millar has played in over one hundred film and television scores, most notably for Elmer Bernstein (who encouraged her to learn the Ondes Martenot and for whom she also often recorded as piano soloist, notably in Far from Heaven), Richard Rodney Bennett, Maurice Jarre, Henry Mancini and Miklos Rozsa. She gave the world premiere of Elmer Benstein’s Ondine at the Cinema in a special concert to celebrate the composers’ 80th birthday with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, London. She also writes for film, television and theatre and her work in this field includes scores for films by Arthur Penn, Robert Wise, Martha Coolidge and Peter Yates.

Most recent performances include Turangalila with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Seattle Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine and the London Symphony Orchestra, and Trois petites liturgies with the Orchestra of La Monnaie. In the current season she performs Turangalila with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and on tour in Europe, and Trois petites liturgies with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester. Next season includes Turangalila with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko and on tour with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel.

“…the Ondes Martenot played by Cynthia Millar…was here a vibrant, central figure, the sonic embodiment of the spirit Messiaen so passionately invokes.” Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, The Plain Dealer November 2013

“Two formidable Messiaen interpreters – pianist Steven Osborne and ondes Martenot player Cynthia Millar – give this exciting new recording of the Turangalîla Symphony a stamp of authority and flair….Millar is the musician of choice for the ondes,that early electronic instrument which gives the symphony its voluptuous, unearthly qualities.” Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Hyperion, Observer August 2012

“…..with the brilliance of an absolute specialist like Cynthia Millar at the highest extremes of the ondes martenot: the expressive tones at times hallucinogenic and at others intergalactic as in the glissandi with their non physical presence, with their volatility, both unusual and marvellous.” El Mundo, Granada July 2008

“..Cynthia Millar savouring but never over-doing the wail of the ondes martenot, the conductor was fortunate in his soloists.” The Glasgow Herald April 2005

“…while Cynthia Millar, doyenne of the electric Ondes Martenot, wove her characteristic seductive magic with most caressing tones the ondes has to offer, and getting the balance with the orchestra and chorus (always difficult) exquisitely placed” The Glasgow Herald August 2003

“American-born conductor David Robertson’s hard-driven energy ignited Messiaen’s starlike textures, a performance notable too for Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s phenomenal gymnastics on the piano, and Cynthia Millar’s ghostly effects on the Ondes Martenot. Out of this world.” The Scotsman August 2002

“At the ondes, Cynthia Millar rendered her steely glissandos and pugnacious tremolos dexterously. In particular, se mamanged the difficult brick of blending the instrument’s sometimes overbearing sonorities with those of the orchestra, and the results were wonderful.” San Francisco Chronicle April 2002

“There was no shortage of majesty, as well as rapture and tenderness, in the hugely impressive performance of the symphony by the National Youth Orchestra under Andrew Davis. They were joined by the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a brilliant presence, and Cynthia Millar, a seasoned interpreter of the swooping ondes martenot part.” The Times August 2001

“Saturday’s performance was dedicated to the memory of Messiaen’s sister-in-law Jeanne Loriod for whom the ondes martenot part was written and who died a week earlier. Surely she would have admired the expressive fluency and confidence of the highly experienced Cynthia Millar.” The Independent August 2001

“Cynthia Millar performed the transcendent swoops and whistles of the electronic ondes martenot part. This performance was dedicated to the memory of Jeanne Loriod, Messiaen’s sister-in-law, who played the ondes martenot at the premiere of Turangalila. She could not have had a more fitting tribute.” The Guardian August 2001

“The performance was remarkable for the outstandingly poetic and sensitive manipulation of the Ondes Martenot by Cynthia Millar, who revealed unsuspected nuances and subtleties.” The Daily Telegraph

“Cynthia Millar made the wailing of the Ondes Martenot more seductive than I have ever known in this work, softening the electronic edge and giving the sound surprising purity.” The Guardian