Ondes Martenot

Cynthia Millar

© Steven Nilsson


Described by The Observer [July 2018] as the “unchallenged sovereign of the Ondes Martenot”, Cynthia Millar’s most recent performances include concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Nashville Symphony Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra. The 2019-20 season saw a debut with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, as well as return visits to the Orchestre National de Lyon and Orchestre de Paris.

In 2016 Cynthia premiered the Ondes Martenot part specially written for her by Thomas Adès in his opera The Exterminating Angel at the Salzburg Festival, and subsequently at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Danish Opera in March 2018. The 2016-17 season also saw her take part in a ten-concert tour of the Turangalîla Symphonie with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel, beginning in Caracas and culminating in a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Cynthia Millar studied the Ondes Martenot with John Morton in England and Jeanne Loriod in France. Since her first performance of the Turangalîla Symphonie at the 1986 BBC Proms with the National Youth Orchestra under Sir Mark Elder, she has played this piece around 200 times with some of the world’s leading conductors including Simon Rattle, Saraki Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Franz Welser-Möst, Paavo Järvi, Susanna Mälkki, Andrew Davis and Mariss Jansons.

Cynthia has recorded Turangalîla with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra for Juanjo Mena; and the Trois petites liturgies with the Seattle Symphony for Ludovic Morlot and the London Sinfonietta for Terry Edwards. She has played in well over 100 film and television scores and has written music for film, television and theatre, including scores for Robert Wise, Arthur Penn, Martha Coolidge and Peter Yates.


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    25 Mar 19 Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
    Auckland Town Hall

    Cynthia Millar’s virtuosic ondes Martenot playing was full of different sounds and textures. From its entry with the piano in the first movement this exotic instrument added an ethereal edge to the music. […] when merged with the circling and shimmering harmonies of the 6th movement, Jardin du sommeil d’amour, it produced the sense of timelessness and transcendence that the work is about.

    Peter Hoar, Radio NZ, 25 Mar 19

    “Messiaen’s high-voltage first movement featured MacGregor’s coruscating keyboard, sci-fi whoops from Millar’s electronic instrument and a hulking brass theme that might have strayed from Mussorgsky’s art gallery.”

    William Dart, NZ Herald, 25 Mar 19

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    18 Jan 19 Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie LA Philharmonic
    Walt Disney Concert Hall

    “Cynthia Millar’s ondes martenot helped come as close to sonic pornography as the composer clearly desired.”

    Mark Swed, LA Times, 21 Jan 19

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    18 Jul 18 Messiaen Turangalîla-Symphonie BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Royal Albert Hall, BBC Proms

    “Cynthia Millar, unchallenged sovereign of the ondes martenot, provided whooping, sensuous caresses.”

    Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, July 22 2018

    “The Ondes Martenot alone, handled with exquisite care by Cynthia Millar, adds its own mysterious, ethereal, almost alien ambience.”

    Olivia Bell, bachtrack, July 20 2018 

    “…the Ondes Martenot, played with expert finesse by Cynthia Millar.”

    Geoff Brown, The Times, July 20 2018

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    31 Jul 17 Adès The Exterminating Angel
    Royal Opera House

    “Cynthia Millar’s Ondes Martenot insinuates its way into every aspect of this colourful score, perhaps playing the part of the exterminating angel itself.”

    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 […]”

    Guardian, April 2017

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    24 May 17 Messiaen Turangalîla Symphonie BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Barbican Hall, London

    “No doubting the fabulous playing of Steven Osborne… and the mastery of the Ondes by Cynthia Millar”

    Colin Anderson, Classical Source, May 24 2017

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    06 Jan 17 Messiaen Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine Seattle Symphony
    Benaroya Hall

    “Adding a sense of giddy joy to the texture were the swoops and whistles from the Ondes Martenot, played by Cynthia Millar, a renowned virtuosa”

    Thomas May, Seattle Times, 6 January 2017

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    31 Aug 16 Adès The Exterminating Angel
    Salzburg Festival

    “Cynthia Millar’s playing of the ondes was so acutely expressive that she might have taken a bow with the singers.”

    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 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 Observer, July 2016

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    18 Jan 16 Messiaen Turangalîla Symphonie Simón Bolivar Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall

    “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.”

    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.”

    Musicomh.com, 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.”

    Classical Discourse, January 2016


ADÈS The Exterminating Angel
BENNETT (RICHARD RODNEY) Ophelia (Cantata) (1987)
HONEGGER Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher
MESSIAEN Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine
MESSIAEN Turangalîla-Symphonie
VARÈSE Ecuatorial


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    The Exterminating Angel

    Label: Erato Records

    Release Date: 22 Feb 19

    ADÈS The Exterminating Angel

    Conductor: Thomas Adès
    Libretto: Tom Cairns
    Production: Tom Cairns

    Ondes Martenot: Cynthia Millar
    Piano: Dimitri Dover
    Guitar: Michael Kudirka
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus

    Leticia Maynar – Audrey Luna
    Lucía de Nobile – Amanda Echalaz
    Silvia de Ávila – Sally Matthews
    Beatriz – Sophie Bevan
    Leonora Palma – Alice Coote
    Blanca Delgado – Christine Rice
    Francisco de Ávila – Iestyn Davies
    Edmundo de Nobile – Joseph Kaiser
    Raúl Yebenes – Frédéric Antoun
    Eduardo – David Portillo
    Colonel Álvaro Gómez – David Adam Moore
    Alberto Roc – Rod Gilfry
    Señor Russell – Kevin Burdette
    Julio – Christian Van Horn
    Doctor Carlos Conde – John Tomlinson

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    MESSIAEN Turangalîla-Symphonie

    Label: Hyperion

    Release Date: 30 Jul 12

    Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie

    Cynthia Millar: Ondes Martenot

    Steven Osborne: Piano

    Juanjo Mena: Conductor

    Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

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    MESSIAEN Poèmes Pour Mi; Trois Petites Liturgies De La Présence Divine

    Label: Seattle Symphony Media

    Release Date: 13 Oct 17

    Cynthia Millar: Ondes Martenot

    Michael Brown: Piano

    Ludovic Morlot: Conductor

    Seattle Symphony Orchestra

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    MESSIAEN Trois Petites Liturgies De La Présence Divine

    Label: Virgin Classics

    Release Date: 06 Aug 01

    Cynthia Millar: Ondes Martenot

    Rolf Hind: Piano

    Terry Edwards: Conductor

    London Sinfonietta