Oregon Symphony


Concert Information

Bluebeard’s Castle

Saturday, September 24, 2016, 7:30 pm
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 7:30 pm
Monday, September 26, 2016, 7:30 pm

Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Carlos Kalmar, conductor
Viktoria Vizin, Judith
Gábor Bretz, Bluebeard
MaryAnne Glazebrook, wife #1
Myia Johnson, wife #2
Ithica Tell, wife #3
Mary Birnbaum, stage director
Dale Chihuly, set designer

The Star Spangled Banner
Symphony No. 31 in D major, “Paris”
  • Allegro assai
  • Andantino
  • Allegro


Bluebeard’s Castle
  • Viktoria Vizin, Judith
  • Gábor Bretz, Bluebeard
  • MaryAnne Glazebrook, wife #1
  • Myia Johnson, wife #2
  • Ithica Tell, wife #3
  • Mary Birnbaum, stage director
  • Dale Chihuly, set designer

THE CONCERT CONVERSATION, conducted one hour before each performance, will be presented by Music Director Carlos Kalmar and Robert McBride, host for the stations of All Classical Portland. You can also enjoy the Concert Conversation in the comfort of your own home. Visit the web site allclassical.org to watch the video on demand.

Among Mountains (world premiere)

Vital Stats

Composer: Born December 6, 1988, Buffalo, NY.

Work composed: 2016.

World premiere: Commissioned by the Oregon Symphony to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its founding.

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, bass drum, chimes, cymbals, glockenspiel, tamtam, harp, piano, and strings.

Estimated duration: 4 minutes

Hailed as a “confident new musical voice” by The New York Times, Chris Rogerson’s music has garnered praise from musical cognoscenti and classical neophytes alike. The 27-year-old composer has received commissions and performances from the San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony, among other orchestras, and his music has been heard at Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and Symphony Center in Chicago. In the realm of chamber music, Rogerson has worked with renowned chamber artists, including Ida Kavafian, Anne-Marie McDermott, and David Shifrin (artistic director of Portland’s Chamber Music Northwest), as well as distinguished members of the Guarneri and Orion Quartets. In May 2009, Portland’s Third Angle New Music ensemble performed Rogerson’s “Four Autumn Landscapes,” which he wrote at 19.

Rogerson has earned a number awards for composition, including a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012. Other awards include the Theodore Presser Career Grant, the Aaron Copland Award, the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and the Aspen Music Festival Jacob Druckman Award.

Tonight’s world premiere, Among Mountains, was inspired by Rogerson’s childhood summers spent in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. “We traveled all over Oregon, to Black Butte Ranch, Bend, Crater Lake,” he writes. “We fished the Metolius River, hiked between alpine lakes, and visited the Columbia River Gorge. Among Mountains is a short ode to the simplicity of that time and the majesty and beauty of the Cascade Range. I wanted to compose a piece that was celebratory in a broad, lyrical, and majestic sense, rather than something up-tempo, [like] a bright fanfare.”

Symphony No. 31 in D major, “Paris,” K. 300a (297)

Vital Stats

Composer: Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg, Austria; died December 5,
1791, Vienna.

Work composed: June 1778, while Mozart and his mother Anna Maria were visiting Paris.

World premiere: The first public performance took place on June 18, 1778, in the Salle des CentSuisses at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Joseph Legros, director of the Concert Spirituel, conducted. At Legros’ request, Mozart later wrote a second Andante to replace the original. Legros and the Concert Spirituel presented the new version of Symphony No. 31 two months later, on August 15, again in Paris.

Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: April 28, 2003; James DePreist, conductor.

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.

Estimated duration: 16 minutes

The cheerful, sunny nature of this symphony contrasts sharply with events in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life during the spring of 1778. In March of that year, Mozart and his mother Anna Maria arrived in Paris, in hopes of finding suitable, well-paying work for the 22-year-old composer. Unlike Mozart’s previous travels through Europe, when he was a child and, along with his sister Nannerl, wowed all they met with their prodigious musical abilities, this tour proved wholly unsuccessful. Mozart garnered few commissions, and he and his mother lived in a state of grim poverty while in Paris. Adding to Mozart’s worries, in June 1778, Anna Maria became gravely ill and died a month later. Mozart, who had been devoted to her, was devastated.

Mozart completed the score to what became known as his “Paris” symphony on June 12, 1778, according to letters he wrote to his father Leopold. Six days later, after one orchestra rehearsal, the “Paris” symphony premiered. “I was very nervous at the rehearsal, for never in my life have I heard a worse performance; you cannot imagine how they bumbled and scraped through it,” Mozart reported. “I was really in a terrible state and would gladly have rehearsed it again, but … there was no time left. So I had to go to bed with an anxious heart and in a discontented and angry frame of mind.” Discouraged, Mozart considered skipping the premiere, although he did in fact attend. “I prayed to God that it might go well, for it is all to His greater honor and glory,” Mozart continued, “and behold—the symphony began … Just in the middle of the first Allegro, there was a passage which I felt sure must please. The audience was quite carried away—and there was a tremendous burst of applause … The Andante also found favor … I was so happy that as soon as the symphony was over, I went off to the Palais Royal, where I had a large ice, said the Rosary as I had vowed to do—and went home.”

Some distinctive elements of Symphony No. 31: the opening premier coup d’archet (a strong, loud tutti opening, or attack) for which the Concert Spirituel was known. Mozart was unimpressed by this device, even though he dutifully included it. “These oxen here make such a to-do about it [the coup d’archet]!” scoffed Mozart to Leopold. “What the devil! I can see no difference—they merely begin together—much as they do elsewhere.” This symphony also marks the first time Mozart added clarinets to his orchestra, which is notable given his later interest in the clarinet, at the time, a relatively new instrument.

Bluebeard’s Castle, Op. 11

Vital Stats

Composer: Born March 25, 1881, Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary (now Sînnicolau Mare, Rumania); died September 26, 1945, New York City.

Work composed: 1911, rev. 1912, 1918. Dedicated to Bartók’s first wife, Márta Ziegler.

World premiere: Egisto Tango conducted the first performance on May 24, 1918, at the Budapest Opera.

Most recent Oregon Symphony performance: February 17, 1987; James DePreist, conductor.

Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano soloist, bass soloist, actor (playing the stage director), 4 flutes (two doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet), 4 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tamburo piccolo, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone (originally a tastiera—usually played by two players), celesta, organ, 2 harps, and strings.

Estimated duration: 59 minutes

“Only impenitent pedants can go on asking themselves whether this is ‘really’ an opera or not. What does it matter? Call it a ‘scenic symphony,’ or a ‘drama accompanied by a symphony.’ What matters is that it is impossible to separate the music and the drama, and that here we have a masterpiece, a musical volcano that erupts for 60 minutes of compressed tragedy and leaves us only with one desire: the desire to hear it again.”
—Zoltán Kodály, on Bluebeard’s Castle

In 1910, Hungarian writer Béla Balázs gave a reading of his newly completed one-act “mystery play,” based on the fairy tale/legend of the enigmatic Bluebeard, whose wives seem to disappear with alarming frequency. Both Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály attended the reading, and Balázs had hopes Kodály would set it to music. But it was the 29-year-old newly married Bartók who responded to the richly symbolic and psychologically dense tale. As biographer Kenneth Chalmers observed, “There was surely a personal resonance for him in this story of a husband who is afraid to reveal himself, and a wife who wants to break down his defenses.”

Bartók worked on the opera over the summer of 1911, where he and his wife Márta spent their holiday at a Swiss nudist colony near Zurich. Balázs, who visited the colony that summer, noted in his diary how the industrious Bartók would spend hours in the solarium, wearing nothing but sunglasses, as he worked on the score.

The character of Bluebeard has inspired several operas, including those of Jacques Offenbach and Paul Dukas.

Bartók’s version, based on Balázs’ libretto, condenses all the action into one hour and two characters—Bluebeard and his newest wife, Judith. When Bartók submitted Bluebeard’s Castle for consideration to the Hungarian Fine Arts commission, it was rejected as wholly unsuitable for staging. However, as Kodály implies in the quote above, the dramatic impact of Bluebeard’s Castle lies not in external stage elements, but in Bartók’s powerful music.
For both Bartók and Balázs, the essence of the story lies in the infinitely complex relationship between man and woman. The music presents them as two separate beings trapped in their own solitude; they sing to one another, but rarely together. In Bartók’s rather bleak conception of this relationship, true communion is impossible. Bluebeard’s straightforward melodies and rhythms, modeled on folk music, reveal little of his inner self, while Judith declaims her feelings in romantic, richly chromatic melodies.

The story opens with Bluebeard, a man in middle age, leading his new, young bride Judith into the cavernous main hall of his dark castle. The hall contains seven locked doors; when Judith presses her husband for information about what lies behind them, he reluctantly gives her a key. In sequence, the doors reveal 1) a torture chamber with blood dripping down the walls; 2) a bloodstained armory; 3) wealth and jewels, encrusted with blood; 4) a garden whose soil is saturated with blood; 5) clouds casting bloodstained shadows on the countryside; and 6) an eerily still lake of tears. Although she senses what lies behind the seventh door, Judith insists on unlocking it, over Bluebeard’s protestations. As the seventh door opens, Judith meets Bluebeard’s three previous wives, alive but emotionally remote. Understanding her fate, Judith joins them in their silent vigil behind the door, which closes, leaving Bluebeard alone in the dark.

Along with the drama contained in the music, Balázs’ libretto contains specific theatrical directions to enhance the emotional and psychological atmosphere of the opera: we begin and end in darkness and, throughout the story, light and color serve to accent particular moments, as Judith’s macabre journey of discovery leads inexorably to its inevitable end.


© 2016 Elizabeth Schwartz

Program Notes by Elizabeth Schwartz

Elizabeth Schwartz is a writer and musician based in the Portland area. She provides notes for several organizations, including the Oregon Symphony, Portland Piano International and the Oregon Bach Festival, among others, and has also contributed to NPR’s “Performance Today,” (now heard on American Public Media). Ms. Schwartz also co-hosts the Portland Jewish Hour, heard Sundays at 10 am on KBOO 90.7 fm. classicalmusicprogramnotes.com.

Recommended Recordings by Michael Parsons

Mozart–Symphony No. 31, "Paris"
Karl Bohm–Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Deutsche Grammophon 463230 OR
Sir Charles Mackerras–Prague Chamber Orchestra
Telarc 80190

Bartók–Bluebeard's Castle
Christa Ludwig, Mezzo-soprano; Walter Berry, Bass
Istvan Kertesz–London Symphony Orchestra
Decca Legends 466377 OR
Ildiko Komlosi, Mezzo-soprano; Laszlo Polgar, Bass
Ivan Fischer–Budapest Festival Orchestra
Channel Classics 90311

These recordings are available for purchase during intermission in the lobby of the concert hall.