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 London Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Orchestre de Paris and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms. The 2018-19 season includes returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and NHK Symphony Orchestra.

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, Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Franz Welser-Möst, 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.


Performance Schedule

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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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    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