Saturday, May 19, 2007

Persuasive harmonies

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

Here's another beautiful moment from Bluebeard's Castle (the first one is here). When Judit opens the first of Bluebeard's seven locked doors, she finds a torture chamber with bloodstained walls. This hardly fazes her, and she resolves to open all the other doors. To reassure Bluebeard, she promises to be gentle and quiet, accompanied by these extraordinarily gentle, quiet chords in the strings and harp.

But Bluebeard is barely convinced, and if you listen closely, the accompaniment reflects his reluctance and suspicion as well. There's something about the harmony and orchestration here that is guarded and meltingly seductive at the same time. It might be a stretch, but I think I can even hear Judit's wariness of Bluebeard, who is rumored to have murdered his three former wives.

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