Cynthia Millar

Cynthia Millar studied the Ondes Martenot first with John Morton in England and later with Jeanne Loriod. 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 conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Antonio Pappano, André Previn, Esa Pekka Salonen, Edo de Waart, Yakov Kreitzburg, Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yan Pascal Tortelier, David Robertson, Kent Nagano, Franz Welser-Möst, Mark Wigglesworth, Matthias Bamert, Donald Runnicles, Ilan Volkov, Mariss Jansons, and Paavo Järvi, Ludovic Morlot and Vasily Petrenko. Her many performances have included appearances at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Edinburgh, Luzern and Aspen Festivals as well as regular appearances at the BBC Promenade Concerts. She has performed with most of the major US Orchestras including Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland, and Chicago Symphony, and throughout Europe, Australasia and in the Far East. In 2016 she performed a series of eleven concerts with the Simón Bolívar Orchstra and Gustavo Dudamel beginning in Caracas and ending at Carnegie Hall in New York.

In summer 2016 she performed the important solo Ondes Martenot part written especially for her by Thomas Adès in his latest opera The Exterminating Angel at the Salzburg Festival. There will be further performances at the Royal Opera House in London and The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Alex Ross writing in The New Yorker said “Cynthia Millar’s playing of the ondes was so acutely expressive that she might have taken a bow with the singers.”

Her recordings include Turangalila with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra conducted by Juanjo Mena for Hyperion and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies with the London Sinfonietta and Terry Edwards on the Virgin Classics Label, and also with the Netherlands Chamber Choir for Globe.

Cynthia Millar has played in over one hundred film and television scores, principally 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 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, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, London Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and on tour in Europe, and Trois petites liturgies with the Orchestra of La Monnaie and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester. Last season included Turangalila with the Oregon Symphony, BBC Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony and Trois petites liturgies with the Seattle Symphony, and the work recently opened the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 season under Kirill Karabits.

Plans include Turangalila at the Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nashville Symphony and in Japan with the NHK Symphony Orchestra.


Performing Turangalîla-Symphonie with the Simón Bolívar Orchestra under Dudamel

Artist Videos

“Cynthia Millar’s ondes Martenot insinuates its way into every aspect of this colourful score, perhaps playing the part of the exterminating angel itself.” The Exterminating Angel/Royal Opera House, Opera Magazine, July 2017

“A new sound for Adès is that of the ondes martenot, played by no less than Cynthia Millar, its pure-toned electronic swoops adding a B-movie sci-fi feel…” The Exterminating Angel/Royal Opera House, Guardian, April 2017

“Cynthia Millar’s playing of the ondes was so acutely expressive that she might have taken a bow with the singers.” The Exterminating Angel/Salzburg Festival, The New Yorker, August 2016

“….the odd sound of the ondes martenot (Cynthia Millar, another welcome star “vocalist”) suggest the invisible angel of the alluring title…” The Exterminating Angel/Salzburg Festival, The Arts Desk, August 2016

“Hovering above all, making ghostly, whooping and poetic interjections, is that electronic wonder instrument beloved of Messian, the ondes martenot, played by the world’s leading player, Cynthia Millar.” The Exterminating Angel/Salzburg Festival, The Observer, July 2016

“It is a tribute to Cynthia Millar’s skill as a performer on her idiosyncratic electronic ondes martenot instrument that the sounds emanating from it made a telling effect in the ensemble without dominating it to the unwanted degree heard in some other performances. She also made a notable contribution to the overall success of the performance, of which there were so many and consistent highlights that any specific references are unnecessary.” Simón Bolivar Orchestra, Seen and Heard International, January 2016

“Also featured front-of-stage was Messiaen’s signature instrument, the ondes martenot, which was played with delicious engagement by Cynthia Millar.” Simón Bolivar Orchestra,, January 2016

“A chamber-like passage opened the third movement too, with a charming but eerie duet between clarinet and Cynthia Millar on ondes martenot. The ondes martenot is a curious addition by Messiaen, and Millar’s playing brought a fascinating other element to the orchestral sound. Its electronic sound was otherworldly, yet it blended seamlessly in with the strings, giving the section an unfamiliar edge.” Simón Bolivar Orchestra, Classical Discourse, January 2016

“Cynthia Millar, el pol oposat al caràcter expansiu de Yuja Wang, va concentrar la sensualitat en aquest estrany instrument que són les ondes Martenot, de so sinuós, volàtil i eteri, que a vegades esdevenia solístic i d’altres feia de coixí harmònic a l’orquestra.” Simón Bolívar Orchestra, Revista Musical Catalana, January 2016

“…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

“The soloists in this new Turangalîla are real thoroughbreds; Steven Osborne, a long-standing member of the Hyperion stable, is much respected for his fine Messiaen, and Cynthia Millar’s mastery of the ondes has garnered much praise in concert halls here and abroad….As expected Osborne and Millar play with great abandon, their contributions easily heard at all times.” Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Hyperion, MusicWeb International, July 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

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