Clemency B-Hill: In New York City, there are lots of ways to get to Carnegie Hall, the subway, a taxi, a walk down 57th Street and you've just found another way to get to America's most famous home for classical music. Welcome to Carnegie Hall Live. This broadcast series brings you Carnegie Hall concerts by some of the world's most celebrated artists and you'll hear the performances exactly as they happen. You are part of the audience sharing the experience of music making at Carnegie Hall. I'm Clemency Burton Hill.
Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. There is something very near perfection in the combination of the music we're about to hear and the musicians who are going to be making it. The music is by the 20th century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and the musicians making it are Hungarian as well. The Budapest Festival Orchestra and their founding music director, Iván Fischer. The program explores both outer life and inner life. In the first half, the outer life, the legacy of Bartók's greatest passion, folk music.
Clemency B-Hill: Indeed, Bartók was among the most fervent and devoted collectors of folk music in the early part of the 20th century. He preserved melodies and rhythms that had previously been passed down for generations by oral tradition alone. Bartók used that music as the basis for his own compositions, and in doing so, created a large part of his own musical identity. Tonight, the Budapest festival orchestra will play his Romanian folk dances and Hungarian folk songs. And these works, the Hungarian folk songs especially, will be even richer in this concept because of a very special added element.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes, we're going to hear the original folk songs that Bartók collected, performed in authentic folk style by some of the orchestra members and a special guest, the Hungarian folk singer, Márta Sebestyén. So you're going to hear not only Bartók's music played by a great orchestra, but the source material of that music performed in a style very close to what Bartók himself might've heard, when he collected these tunes in the towns and villages of rural Hungary and Romania a century or so ago. If you already know these Bartók works, you're going to appreciate them even more in this performance. And if you're new to Bartók's musical world, you could not have a better introduction.
Clemency B-Hill: That's the first half of the concert and in the second half we will enter the inner world, the world of the human mind and human emotion as explored in Bartók's extraordinary one-act opera, Bluebeard's Castle. On its surface, the plot of the opera is pretty dark, to say the least. Bluebeard takes his new wife into his castle where she looks behind seven locked doors and sees some grisly and rather frightening sights. Behind one door are the women who came to Bluebeard's castle before her and at the end of the opera she joins them and disappears, but fear not. Before Bluebeard's Castle, we'll get some comforting explanation of what it all means. And then you're in for some of Bartók's most amazing music, performed tonight by Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Jeff Spurgeon: Carnegie Hall Live is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for WQXR is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City council.
Clemency B-Hill: It was in the year 1906 that Béla Bartók and his great friend, Zoltán Kodály, issued a public appeal to Hungarian people, asking for their help in amassing a collection of folk songs gathered, as the two musicians put it, with scholarly exactitude. We asked tonight's conductor, Iván Fischer, to tell us exactly how that work was really done.
Iván Fischer: There was a group of fanatic folklore lovers who found that the Hungarian peasant song is a treasure house, which hasn't been properly collected and researched yet. So these young people went out to villages, asked usually-older village people to sing for them, and collected and actually saved a wonderful part of European culture. They usually first went to a local teacher or sometimes a priest and asked, "Who in your village sings a lot?" And then identified the lady, for example, went to her and asked if she was willing to sing and if yes, then they brought a large phonograph machine. "Sing here into this hole." And in the old recordings, you can hear that somebody says his or her name, age, and starts to sing.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's Iván Fischer, music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, talking about the way folk song was collected in Europe, a bit more than a century ago. Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály then use those collected materials in several ways. Some of the melodies were published with a piano accompaniment as a way of sharing the folk songs in a simple state. They might also have been used as the basis for larger musical works, as we're about to hear on this concert. And Kodály took those melodies and rhythms and used them to create an entirely new method of teaching music. Iván Fischer knows that method from personal experience. Bartók and Kodály didn't just collect this music. They made sure the songs stayed alive.
Iván Fischer: They are still sung in the rural areas and because of the fantastic campaign by Zoltán Kodály, Bartók and a few others, this huge collection of folk songs was introduced also in towns and in Budapest and became part of, for example, school material. In elementary school, I had to learn a lot of those folk songs. I was in one of Kodály's experimental schools, which meant that for example, I learned to read music before reading a text.
Clemency B-Hill: Iván Fischer, proving his credentials for tonight, a man for whom the music, in fact, came before all words. Fischer is the cofounder and founding music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. You can hear them tuning up on the stage of Carnegie Hall this evening. They'll be starting their concert with Béla Bartók's Romanian Dances from Carnegie Hall Live.
Jeff Spurgeon: We may be hearing from Iván Fischer from the podium. We're not sure. He may be making some remarks during the concert. We know he will, a little bit later on, but you might hear his voice at the top of the show as well. The orchestra's all seated, all tuned up, and now the stage door has opened and we're just waiting for him to walk through. And we have a trio of members from the orchestra who will be taking part in some special accompaniment for some of these folk songs tonight in this performance. Iván Fischer mounts the podium and you hear the appreciation for this orchestra coming to New York to play Bartók for you from Carnegie Hall.
Iván Fischer: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. In the first half of tonight's concert, we will focus on Béla Bartók's relationship to folk music. He collected folk music passionately in Hungary and in other East European countries. Before we perform his adaptation of the Rumanian folk dances, I want you to hear the original dances as Bartók may have heard them in various Rumanian villages. This will be performed by three members of our orchestra, István Kádár, András Szabó, and Zsolt Fejérvári.
Jeff Spurgeon: From Carnegie Hall Live, you've just heard the Budapest Festival Orchestra performing the Romanian dances for orchestra by Béla Bartók, preceded by some folk-style performances of those dances as Bartók collected them.
Clemency B-Hill: I'll never be able to hear it in the same way again.
Iván Fischer: Thank you. The next work is called Hungarian Peasant Songs. It is also an adaptation. The young Béla Bartók went around Hungarian villages, found the people, usually the elderly ladies or gentleman who loved to sing, and asked them to sing and recorded their singing and created a wonderful collection of Hungarian peasant songs. Before we play the adaptation, we would like you to hear the original songs in the style as those ladies in those villages may have sung them. So we invited a wonderful folk singer, Márta Sebestyén from Hungary, who will sing the original songs for you.
Jeff Spurgeon: From Carnegie Hall Live, what a special experience we're enjoying in this performance by the Budapest Festival Orchestra and their music director and conductor, Iván Fischer. We've just heard the Hungarian folk songs of Béla Bartók, but they were preceded by an extraordinary experience of hearing the music done in the original style of the folk songs as Bartók might've heard them when he gathered them from the Hungarian villages in the countryside a bit more than a century ago. Sung by Márta Sebestyén and accompanied by three of the members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, performing that music with a rustic style. So captivating and absolutely thrilling and as you can hear, the audience at Carnegie Hall Live appreciates it just as much. Backstage, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, along with Clemency Burton-Hill.
Clemency B-Hill: Well, if music is the ultimate, sonic magic carpet, if you like, we have just been transported from 57th Street in New York City to a rural Hungarian village that was a part of Bartók's Hungarian peasant songs performed as an encore by Márta Sebestyén and members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Iván Fischer, who is music director and conductor tonight, he was singing along, tapping his feet, as I'm sure everyone at home listening must've been as well. I defy you if you're a human being, not to be captivated by those infectious, wonderful energy and rhythms.
Jeff Spurgeon: Musicians coming off the stage now, but they'll be going back out again.
Clemency B-Hill: Márta.
Jeff Spurgeon: An extra treat in this performance tonight from Márta Sebestyén and three of the members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, violin, viola, and bass providing that countrified accompaniment that would have been familiar to the people who sang these songs for Béla Bartók, into his gramophone machine or just so that he could write them down on a piece of staff paper, which is why you're hearing them tonight on this broadcast.
Clemency B-Hill: Sorry, Jeff. I cut in over you there-
Jeff Spurgeon: Not at all.
Clemency B-Hill: because I was so captivated by Márta Sebestyén, not by her wonderful, warm vocal style, but also she's wearing what I imagine to be traditional Hungarian garb tonight.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes.
Clemency B-Hill: Very splendid indeed.
Jeff Spurgeon: All right, so the house lights will be up and that's the end of the first half of this broadcast, this concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, one outer world moment. This Hungarian folk music in the first half and in the second half, we'll go inside for the one-act opera, Bluebeard's Castle. But we wanted to talk a little bit more about this music that we've just heard, these multitalented orchestra players who provided the folk style accompaniment for singer Márta Sebestyén, we heard about it from Iván Fischer.
Iván Fischer: The string players, in one way or the other, they get in contact with folk, string players in Hungary. We have one group in the orchestra who do it as a hobby. They play especially Transylvanian instrumental folk music, which we will also demonstrate in the concert. Others, for example, were in touch with gypsy musicians. Strangely enough, the wind or brass instrumentalists come up from a different tradition. There are many brass groups still active in Hungary who actually follow a German tradition and there are German ethnic communities and wherever they are, there is always a brass group. Somehow this folk music is in the blood.
Clemency B-Hill: Iván Fischer talking now and of course folk song-collecting was done in many countries by many people and so many composers have put those melodies and rhythms into their own form of classical music. But few people, it's fair to say, had the passion for that work that Béla Bartók had and as Iván Fischer told us, he went far beyond the borders of his own country in this mission to find the music of the people.
Iván Fischer: What Bartók did, he started in Hungary and extended his research in the neighboring countries and then went into the Middle East. I think this was a very important step, both musically and also socially and politically because at the time of the Nazis, Bartók made the point of, this is not a national issue. This is an international issue.
Jeff Spurgeon: Bartók, during his lifetime, the course of his work, collected some 10,000 pieces of folk music from countries not only in Hungary, in Europe, but in the Middle East as well, and in addition to his work as a pianist and composer, Bartók is among those who founded the field of ethnomusicology. It's quite a story and you've heard some of that story come to life in this performance from Carnegie Hall Live.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's intermission here at Carnegie Hall, and in a moment, we are going to talk to folk singer Márta Sebestyén, who gave us such an incredible experience of Hungarian folk music, along with three of the members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the violinist István Kádár, the violist András Szabó, and bassist Zsolt Fejérvári I love that accompaniment, I thought it was an accordion for a moment there, that we were hearing in that accompaniment.
Jeff Spurgeon: It was just the way that the viola was being played and the particular rhythms that were done, but it was such an incredible, incredible performance. So we have heard just about here at the microphone, Márta Sebestyén. Welcome to the Carnegie Hall Live microphone. Thank you so much for that performance.
Márta Sebestyén: Thank you for the chance. I'm so grateful to Iván Fischer and also to Carnegie Hall to be here back again because I had been here 10 years ago, in a smaller hall.
Jeff Spurgeon: It sounded like a lot of the audience knew that you were coming tonight. You got a wonderful ovation.
Márta Sebestyén: Many people in the audience, they love and they know Hungarian folk music and dance. There's a large circle in New York who are just mad about Hungarian folk dancing. Actually half of my friends from here, they are now in Budapest because there is a big folk dancing gathering this weekend.
Jeff Spurgeon: So you would have had even a bigger audience were it not for that.
Clemency B-Hill: Well, we're now all mad about it too. You've got a whole audience of converts here. It's so wonderful to hear the orchestra is singing along and to create this communal, collective act of music making. How well-known are these folk songs in Hungary today?
Márta Sebestyén: Now they are more and more well known because until let's say the 70s, it was always only accessible for the scientists, for the folk music researchers in the Institute of Musicology and then it gained a new movement they call the revival of folk dancing. One said, "Why don't you use it for the original purpose? Young people like dancing. So why not to dance for our own heritage?" And this movement is called Tančící dům, dancing room, dancing house movement, and now it belongs to the intangible heritage of UNESCO. Like best practice to follow how to give over the traditions from generations. So in this last 40 years, I think more and more people learned about it and generation grew up with this heritage.
Jeff Spurgeon: Speaking of heritage, you have some of your own, because your mother studied with Zoltán Kodály.
Márta Sebestyén: That's correct.
Jeff Spurgeon: So what did she share with you about him and what have you learned from Kodály?
Márta Sebestyén: She was still a student when she married and for nine months we were together. It was a tango, the lessons of Kodály's that were told in his great masters.
Márta Sebestyén: So you can imagine how much I heard already as a fetus. That's true. And Zoltán Kodály's concept that the best time is to start a child's musical education is nine months before the mother's birth. In our case, it was also true, was generations in my mother's family, they were teachers and Calvinist priests, fathers who were singing always. And so it was to me very, very natural.
Clemency B-Hill: You mentioned UNESCO. Of course, 10 years ago you were on board at UNESCO as an artist for peace. Tell us about that mission and about your life's work really being to bring this work not just to people in Hungary but to all of us around the world.
Márta Sebestyén: I always have a quote from Béla Bartók's letter from 1931, which I wanted to share with you and I'm afraid I left the book in my dressing room. And when I received this award after the loud ovation, I wanted to read these wonderful thoughts from Béla Bartók, because he said that all in his life, he wanted the people to become friends and through the music is the most beautiful way. So that's why he devoted his whole life on the brotherhood of nations and therefore he is open to any kind of influence, whether it comes from Slovak, Romanian or Arab source. The only thing is that it should be a pure source. And I love this beautiful concept. I think this world would be a much better world, if we would just join each other in the happiness of culture and not... Politics is a cruel way of connecting. Culture is the beautiful way to reach for each other.
Jeff Spurgeon: It seems to have been so much of your life's work too. You sing not only in Hungarian, but Hindi and Yiddish and Serbian and folk songs from all kinds of cultures. What's your own fascination? How did that begin?
Márta Sebestyén: Maybe I should explain that. My father, who was not musical at all, but he was a great scientist, economy and for history, and he went to have lectures all over the world. He was traveling a lot for conferences, congresses, and from everywhere he'd return from, he brought us folk music. So therefore, the little Marta in communist Hungary, when it was absolutely impossible to travel, the world came to me through these wonderful materials. So as a six, seven years old, I had the chance to listen to North American Indian music, for example, from Smithsonian Institute because my father spent one year here as a professor. Or Bulgarian or Swedish and many more. So for me, it was so natural. They all met in my heart and they melted together.
Clemency B-Hill: Such a wonderful way of putting it. We were there with a very special orchestra this evening. Tell us about-
Márta Sebestyén: Absolutely.
Clemency B-Hill: The Budapest Festival Orchestra and Iván Fischer and what it means to you to be performing here at Carnegie Hall with this particular group of musicians.
Márta Sebestyén: I really fell in love with this band or... Band, I say band. It's a wonderful orchestra, a hundred people. This is very unusual for me, to be on stage with so many musicians, but they sound like one, they're so fantastic together and Iván Fischer's concept, to show the original version also is a wonderful idea and I was very happy to join them for this and I feel honored and very happy. It's already the third occasion that I could join this fabulous symphonic orchestra.
Jeff Spurgeon: You've given us so much. You've enriched the music from so many angles and shared your incredible skill at singing these songs in the way that Bartók himself might've heard it. We thank you so, so much. We want to play a little bit of your music, but we need to make just a word or two. So can you stay for one more moment?
Márta Sebestyén: Yes.
Jeff Spurgeon: One more moment. All right. Carnegie Hall Live is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for WQXR is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council. This is Classical New York 105.9 FM at HD WQXR Newark and 90.3 FM WQXW Ossining.
Clemency B-Hill: So we're going to hear one of your recordings now. This is "On My Way to Kolozsvar Town." Did I say that correctly?
Márta Sebestyén: It's a very moving melody and story. And I just want to share with you that today I went to see the last flat, the last home of Bartók, Béla, where he stayed. It is not far from our hotel and it was so emotional for me to see the place that he spent his last time. He was not happy, he was sick, he was poor, and he couldn't imagine that he will become really a world famous composer. And even the 21st century is still celebrating him and in Carnegie Hall, his music will be heard all the time. And I'm so proud.
Jeff Spurgeon: We are so thrilled to speak to you and to have heard you tonight, Márta Sebestyén. Thank you so much for spending some time with us tonight at Carnegie Hall.
Márta Sebestyén: And thank you for your part.
Jeff Spurgeon: Thank you so much.
Clemency B-Hill: Márta Sebestyén, who we've been hearing singing live at Carnegie Hall this evening. That was from her recording, "On My Way to Kolozsvar Town." And we mentioned that Sebestyén's mother studied with the composer Zoltán Kodály. She is a direct connection, if you like, back to that era with Bartok. Kodály was also an ethnomusicologist. He collaborated with Bartok in collecting many songs of the region. We have a little bit more time in this intermission, so let's listen now to a piece by Kodály that is based on music from the Galanta region, now part of Slovakia. Kodály found the theme of his orchestral work, the dances of Galanta, from a book of Hungarian dances and he wrote this for the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society. This is the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer. Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Galanta.
Jeff Spurgeon: A little bit of Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Galanta. It's an extensive work, but we're using it just to keep the flavor going during intermission of this concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra and conductor, Iván Fischer, coming to you tonight from Carnegie Hall Live.
Clemency B-Hill: Zoltán Kodály, a great friend of Béla Bartók, but it's Bartók we're really focusing our energies on this evening. And the second half of this program from the Budapest Festival Orchestra from Carnegie Hall Live, will be a concert performance of Bartok's one act opera, Bluebeard's Castle. Now the story comes from a writer, Béla Balázs, who was three years younger than Bartok. He was inspired by the symbolist theater works that were popular before World War One. He wrote the story of Bluebeard's Castle originally for Kodály, but Kodály gave the work over to his great mate, Bartok, and he ended up writing the opera in 1911. He then tinkered with it before its first official performance in 1918.
Jeff Spurgeon: The opera has just two characters in it, Bluebeard and his wife, Judith. So here's the story of the opera. Bluebeard brings his new wife, Judith, home to his castle. The action takes place in a dark hallway of the castle with seven doors along it. Bluebeard asks Judith if she wants to stay even though it's dark. She says she does, but she wants to open the curtains and let in the light. Bluebeard says the doors are private places not to be opened and asks Judith to love him without questions. But Judith persuades him to allow her to open the doors. Behind the first one is a bloody torture chamber, behind the second, a huge armory full of bloody weapons, behind the third, an enormous treasury with gold and jewels and a crown. But even the crown has blood on it.
Clemency B-Hill: Inside the fourth door is a beautiful flower garden, but the theme continues because there is blood on the flowers. Bluebeard tells Judith to ask no questions. She opens the fifth door to reveal Bluebeard's kingdom, a wide, rich country. And she notices grim clouds that cast a bloody shadow. Bluebeard pleads with Judith to leave the final two doors sealed, but she insists.
Jeff Spurgeon: So opening the sixth door reveals the silent, motionless lake of tears. And now Judith says she knows what's behind the seventh door. She knows the rumors are true. That behind that door are Bluebeard's other wives, murdered, frozen, bloody. The door is opened and Bluebeard sings to Judith about the wives of his morning, midday and afternoon. And Judith, most beautiful of all, is his fourth wife, the wife of his nighttime. And Bluebeard shuts the seventh door with Judith inside and that's the end of the opera.
Clemency B-Hill: It's a pretty dark picture, that's for sure. Nothing too cheery for your Saturday night, but let's turn to tonight's wonderful conductor, Iván Fischer, because he's going to give us an explanation of what this is all about.
Iván Fischer: Bluebeard's Castle is a psychological dialogue between a man and a woman. Not every man is like Bluebeard. Bluebeard is one type of men who don't like to open up, who like to keep a little reserved, seem corrective about their inner feelings. Probably a little shy. Now, the legend of Bluebeard is that Bluebeard is a killer. Somebody who killed his earlier wives or ladies, and he has that terrible reputation. The point Bartók and his librettist wanted to make, is a man who has a bad reputation, but turns out to be a very deep, wonderful emotional character, who unfortunately is reserved and cannot open up.
Jeff Spurgeon: You're a little more sympathetic to Bluebeard than some people might be.
Iván Fischer: I don't know who isn't. Usually Bluebeard wins the hearts of everybody in the hall.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, we'll see if he wins the hearts of everybody in the hall tonight. In case you're skeptical that Bluebeard can win your heart, here's a little more analysis of those castle doors.
Iván Fischer: The doors mean his character. When they open, we hear the different layers, a torture chamber, then his weapons, which is his military character. Then his lyrical character, the flowers, his treasures, his sadness and the lake of tears.
Clemency B-Hill: So Bluebeard's castle is not really about a place, it's about a man's mind. But what do those doors really mean?
Iván Fischer: Why he doesn't want to open doors, and the doors symbolize his soul, creates disputes. I think the typical couple, who listen to Bluebeard's Castle, go home. Very often the wife said, "If you love somebody, you have to open all the doors." And very often the husband says, "Yes, but he told her very clearly that those doors must not be opened." "Yes, but if you love him, you want to open it." This is an endless discussion.
Jeff Spurgeon: Oh yes it is. And no doubt some couples will be having it after they hear Bluebeard's Castle on this performance. It's about to begin, this concert performance of Béla Bartók's opera, Bluebeard's Castle. The role of Bluebeard will be sung by bass Krisztián Cser, and the role of Judith by mezzo soprano Ildikó Komlósi.
Clemency B-Hill: There's one other small speaking role in the opera and it's that of a bard who introduces the work and we've already heard the gorgeous, mellifluous tones of Iván Fischer tonight. He'll be playing that role. He'll explain that the tale we are about to hear takes place on a special stage, of which our eyes are the curtain. The Bard asks, is the stage inside or outside of that fringed curtain of our eyelids. He's telling you that Bluebeard's Castle is being performed in front of you, but it takes place inside you.
Jeff Spurgeon: The role of the bard will be performed in the original Hungarian. The Carnegie Hall audience has the advantage of some super titles, but we've told you what he's going to say and then we'll let the music unfold. It's some of Bartók's most powerful. There's a large, large orchestra on stage, including an organ, and we saw an instrument that a number of us had not ever seen before tonight. A piano xylophone, a xylophone in a box operated by a piano keyboard. We don't know exactly if this is a Bartók instrument or not or if it's just a way of bringing the xylophone in a smaller package. I'm not really sure, but it was very intriguing. You may hear it amid the many other sounds that this orchestra is about to make in this one act opera of Bartok. Stage doors are closed. We're back at Carnegie Hall, but those doors are about to open. Soloists and conductor will step out for a performance of Bartók's one act opera, lots of symbolism in it, so don't be worried. It's really just happening as Clemency told you, in your mind.
Clemency B-Hill: Onto the stage, Ildikó Komlósi, the mezzo soprano, Krisztián Cser, the bass, and Iván Fischer, to direct the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, live from Carnegie Hall.
Clemency B-Hill: "Now it will be nights forever," the words that Bluebeard intones at the end of Bluebeard's Castle, music by Béla Bartók heard here at Carnegie Hall live this evening, performed by Iván Fischer, music director and conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra and our two soloists, the bass Krisztián Cser and mezzo soprano Ildikó Komlósi, creating a whole world on stage. I always am struck by concert performances, sometimes they can really feel less and not quite enough. And actually here tonight, I feel we were truly taken into that castle in all its gory glory, if you like.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's an enormous orchestra, as you heard, with some incredible effects, very powerful writing for Béla Bartók. This is his only opera. Librettists describe it as a ballad of the inner life, this tale of Bluebeard and Judith, the fourth of his wives being introduced to the castle where Bluebeard brings his wife and there she remains at the end of the opera and there's plenty of food in this work for discussion afterward about what it's like to get into a man's mind, and what happens when you go there.
Jeff Spurgeon: A discreet silence maintained on the subject by Clemency Burton-Hill at my side. I'm Jeff Spurgeon, backstage and onstage now our soloists in this performance, Krisztián Cser, the bass, and the mezzo soprano Ildikó Komlósi. She has sung this role very many times. It's one of her favorites. She's sung it more than 175 times and now the entire orchestra on its feet, with Maestro Fischer on the podium and you hear the cheers of this Carnegie Hall audience.
Clemency B-Hill: By the way, Jeff and I will definitely be taking this discussion off-mic after the end of the broadcast.
Jeff Spurgeon: Safest, I think. Well, we had a glorious first half of this program too. Not a tale of the inner life at all, but instead the outer life in the world of Hungary and the small towns and villages where Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály and a few others went out and collected folk songs, gathering, gathering them like wildflowers or exotic plants and preserving them for the world in Bartok's amazing orchestrations, which we heard accompanied by a fantastic performance of the music in folk style as well. So you heard a rare treat tonight in these presentations of these Bartok works.
Clemency B-Hill: And it was the folk-like text of Bluebeard's Castle, written by Bela Balazs, who was about three years younger than Bartok, a great contemporary of his who was very, very taken by what was happening in literary and musical worlds beyond Hungary. So very interested in the works of people like Swinburne and Wilde and Poe as well as Maeterlinck's "Pelléas and Mélisande," which of course inspired so many other composers.
Clemency B-Hill: But something about that world, that symbolist, rather unsettling world of the imagination and more, that absolutely struck Bartok as well. His ability to infuse and bring to life that folk magic and what we've been hearing throughout the course of this evening at Carnegie Hall to that narrative drama, really inimitable musical voice. I've been thinking all evening, my goodness, where would music be, where would 20th century music and beyond be, without Bartok? And actually, there are few composers who you really think that about. This one changed the course of music forever.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes and in a way created a whole new field of study in ethnomusicology through his fieldwork, to which he was incredibly devoted. You heard a couple of cheers a moment ago. Those were for our soloists, Krisztián Cser and Ildikó Komlósi now onstage.
Clemency B-Hill: Happily reunited, embracing each other.
Jeff Spurgeon: Now Maestro Fischer is onstage asking various members in sections of the orchestra to rise and receive a moment in the sun of their own, before this Carnegie Hall audience. Now the entire orchestra on its feet and out go our two soloists as well, for one last salute by this Carnegie Hall audience. Maestro Fischer applauding the orchestra and the two soloists stepping forward after this performance of Bartok's only opera, Bluebeard's Castle.
Clemency B-Hill: As the applause continues to ring out on 57th Street, we say a very warm thanks to all of the folks who made this broadcast possible, Clive Gillinson and his staff at Carnegie Hall, WQXR's recording engineers, Ed Haber, George Wellington, Noriko Okabe and Irene Trudel. Joe Young has been our stage manager tonight, and our digital producer is Greta Rainbow.
Jeff Spurgeon: WQXR's production team is Christine Herskovits, Matt Abramovitz, and Eileen Delahunty. Carnegie Hall Live is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts on the web at arts.gov.
Clemency B-Hill: Additional support for WQXR is provided in part by the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City council. I'm Clemency Burton-Hill.
Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. This program is a production of WQXR in New York. Classical New York is 105.9 FM at HD WQXR Newark and 90.3 FM WQXW Ossining.