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A Kékszakállú Herceg Vára

Ravel's Masterpiece?Relaxing, pleasant, comfortable: I hate it when classical music is said to be (just) these things, because it is of course so much more. Running the entire emotional gamut from heavenly delight to horror and despair. That is not to say that a piece of classical music cannot or should not be relaxing, pleasant, comfortable… and Ravel’s suite from Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) was exactly that when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed it this Saturday at Strathmore under Kwamé Ryan’s baton in his return to the BSO.

The natural simplicity and gentle beauty of the five episodes that Ravel orchestrated from his piano-for-four-children’s-hands original trumped all other moods presented in it – but that victory of form over content was actually very welcome. The BSO played well – very well in some passages – and even concertmaster Jonathan Carney seemed soothed by the music; his solo was executed with great skill.

Peter FriedThe real thrill of the program was of a different emotional nature, giving me just the gloom and despondency that I so like to hold against those who think about classical music in the “Mozart for Meditation” and “Debussy for Daydreaming” vein. It was Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle that was responsible for the shift to darker hues and the BSO’s presentation – not the least thanks to Mr. Ryan – did this gem a great service with a terrific performance. Glittering and gleaming, Romantic and modern, threatening and stabbing, this is great stuff that benefits much from the live experience. A one-act opera about Mr. Bluebeard, his new hematophobic wife, her need to see all the seven doors in his castle opened and their therefore thwarted love contains miraculously beautiful music. Touches of Wagner before the 7th door is opened, glorious and sweeping sounds with plenty of brass when the fifth door is opened; music so descriptive and gripping that it puts any film score to shame.

Anita Krause

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, A suspenseful 'Bluebeard' (Baltimore Sun, November 20)

Daniel Ginsberg, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Washington Post, November 21)
Sung in Hungarian, the soloists Anita Krause and Peter Fried were outstanding – singing well and enlivening the story with their effective minimal and evocative acting through their faces and small gestures. Maestro Ryan, a Peter Eötvös student (and conductor of the premieres of Eötvös’s operas) should know how to do this score proud, and he did indeed bring the orchestra, the opera’s main character, to life in ways nothing short of magnificent. Because the tale is heavily laden with symbolism, some in the audience may have found it and its grisly end amusing in its projected English translation of the Balázs libretto (based, like Mother Goose, on a Charles Perrault tale). They were forgiven to mistake some dialogue (“‘tis my torture chamber, Judith” –- “Fearsome is thy torture chamber, Bluebeard…”) for a special council Fitzgerald extracted transcript of a conversation between a former New York Times journalist and a certain Vice President – but it was assuredly all part of Bartók’s work.