A soul mystery
Did Bartók save the best for last? Well, you can’t quite put it like that because in »Kosmos Bartók«, everything is equally brilliant and exciting. For many, however, Bartók’s third and final piano concerto – completed shortly before the composer’s death in 1945 – is the summation of his creative work. And the one-act opera »Bluebeard’s Castle« is also a special treat from the diverse oeuvre of the Hungarian composer, pianist and folk musicologist. Bringing this NDR festival to a close, star pianist Igor Levit now – with the Piano Concerto No. 3 – also brings his Bartók piano concerto cycle with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under chief conductor Alan Gilbert to a glorious conclusion. The work’s sleek, melodic and captivatingly beautiful opening sets the tone: »It has a wonderful inner balance, is full of humour, is completely accomplished,« said the American pianist György Sándor about the Third Piano Concerto.
In contrast to the first half of the concert, humour and simplicity are not necessarily the right words for describing Bartók’s 1911 opera »Bluebeard’s Castle«. In this Symbolist, Expressionist soul mystery for baritone, mezzo-soprano and orchestra, the composer served up his entire palette of musical colouration and characterisation.
The scene of the action is a sinister castle with secret chambers. Judith uses her charm to get her host, who lives alone in the castle, to open one locked door after another: first the torture chamber, then a weapons storehouse, a treasure room, a magical garden, a vast kingdom, the lake of tears – and finally the chamber containing his former wives. From each of the doors comes a beam of colourful light that further illuminates the darkness of the castle – depicted by Bartók using striking orchestral sounds. And the lady gradually breaks through Bluebeard’s closed, gloomy nature. Yet this opening to the new is also ultimately unsuccessful: »It shall now remain night forever,« sings Bluebeard after Judith is forced to follow his former wives into the chamber.
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester
Michelle DeYoung mezzo-soprano
Gerald Finley baritone
Igor Levit piano
conductor Alan Gilbert
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3, Sz 119
Duke Bluebeard’s Castle / opera in one act, Sz 48
Concert performance in Hungarian
19:00 / Elbphilharmonie, Großer Saal
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Subscription A
Opera in Concert
Kosmos Bartók – An NDR Festival