Saturday, May 19, 2007

The night wind sighs down endless, gloomy labyrinths

Béla Bartók, Excerpt from Bluebeard's Castle (1911), performed by Christa Ludwig and the orchestra of Covent Garden under the direction of István Kertész, 1965.

In honor of the Chicago Opera Theater's recent production, our first two moments are from Bartók's only opera. Judit has just moved into the dark, creepy castle of her new husband Bluebeard. She wants the doors open, he wants them closed, she thinks he's hiding something, and that's basically the plot of the opera.

Early on, Judit throws a tantrum and pounds her fist against one of the doors. At that point, Bartók writes in the score: "The sound is answered by a cavernous sighing, as when the night wind sighs down endless, gloomy labyrinths," but he doesn't actually write any notes or say how the orchestra should make the sound!

This has to be one of the weirdest sounds ever recorded. Does anyone know how they did this? My other recording sounds prosaic by comparison:

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