- New budget accord saves $23B — after $65B spending spree
- Congress seeks ban on in-flight calls
- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
MUSIC: NSO’s ‘No. 6’ opener tranquil
The National Symphony Orchestra opened its regular season in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Thursday evening with an unusual concert pairing Beethoven’s beloved Symphony No. 6 in F major (“Pastoral”) with Bela Bartok’s rarely seen ballet, “The Wooden Prince.” As most of his fans are well aware, Beethoven was a great lover of nature. The tranquil 6th Symphony — in many ways more of a tone poem — brings life to the composer’s inner pantheist, linking each movement to specific pastoral scenes.
Under the baton of principal conductor Ivan Fischer, the NSO gave a measured, understated reading to the master’s score, tastefully performed but a touch underwhelming. The symphony’s humorous moments — the “cuckoo” scene and the third movement’s buffoonish rustic band passages — were performed with a wink and a smile. But the famous thunderstorm scene and the ensuing finale seemed a bit too polite.
Considerably more impressive was the orchestra’s first-ever complete performance of Bartok’s “Wooden Prince” ballet, which took up the concert’s entire second half. It’s likely that few in Thursday evening’s audience — including this reviewer — had ever heard this roughly 45-minute score. Instead of Bartok, the spiky modernist, what the audience got instead was an earlier, mellower composer whose dissonances were leavened with touches of Romanticism and Impressionism.
First performed in 1917, “The Wooden Prince” is based on a fairy tale. Prince meets Princess. She rejects him, falling in love instead with a crude wooden puppet he has fashioned. Both young people eventually discover happiness with one another by becoming one with the forests and streams that once opposed them at the bidding of a mysterious wood-fairy.
Bartok employs a large orchestra, including saxophones and doubled woodwinds, to paint this rather pantheistic fable in 20th century sensibility. But save for an occasional massive climax, the shimmering percussion, harps and orchestral sections are used instead as tonal watercolors, giving each scene a unique and memorable musical signature.
Maestro Fischer clearly knows this work well. The NSO responded to his vision, presenting as good a performance of this “new” Bartok work as one is likely to hear. It proved the surprise highlight of the evening, and the orchestra ought to get it on a CD. Barring that, you still have two more chances — Friday and Saturday evening — to catch this extraordinary musical experience.
WHAT: The National Symphony Orchestra, Ivan Fischer conducting, presents Beethoven and Bartok
WHERE: Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
WHEN: Oct. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m.
WEB SITE: www.kennedy-center.org
About the Author
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Harry Reid's visa pressure cooker
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whiskey: U.K.-born expert
- FITTON: A closer look at the Benghazi lie
- Galaxy S4 owner claims Samsung tried to silence him after phone caught fire
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow