Bela Bartok – Wooden Prince ballet discography

Just a short discography for the wonderful Wooden Prince (ballet only).

The Princess descends from her miniature castle to play and dance  in the woods and by the streams. The gate of a neighboring miniature castle opens and the Prince sets out to see the world. The Forest Fairy orders the Princess back into the castle, but before she is able to obey, the Prince spots her and is summarily smitten. But the Fairy causes the forest to darken, preventing the Prince’s pursuit. Then his progress is halted by a brook which has been caused to overflow its banks by the Fairy’s magic. At this point, the Prince takes his carved wooden staff and sets on it his crown, mantle, and a lock of his golden hair. The Princess sees the puppet and is lovestruck, ignoring the Prince. The “wooden prince” becomes animated and she dances with it.

The Prince, heartbroken, is crowned King of the Forest by the now sympathetic Fairy. The Princess returns with the puppet, whose spring has run down, it is now a discarded plaything. She spies the Prince and approves; but he, still deeply hurt, turns away. Sad, she discards her royal trappings and cuts off her lovely hair. The Prince, deeply moved, rushes to her side, and they depart to live happily ever after.

Opening: Molto Moderato
First dance: Dance of the Princess in the Forest. The Prince meets the Fairy and sees the Princess
Second dance: Dance of the Trees – The Fairy enchants the Stream – Third dance: Dance of the Waves – The Prince Builds a wooden Prince – The Princess spies the wooden Prince
Fourth dance: Dance of the Princess with the wooden Prince – The Prince is in despair – The Fairy comforts him – Great apotheosis
Fifth Dance: The Princess prods and encourages the wooden Prince to dance
Sixth Dance: With an alluring Dance, The Princess tries to appeal to the Prince
Seventh Dance: Alarmed, The Princess Hurries after the Prince, but the Forest Keeps her Back
The Prince and Princess Embrace – Long Kiss – Slow Curtain

From the trilogy Miraculous Mandarin and Bluebeard’s Castle, this one has a happy ending! More than to Tristan, the introduction makes you think of the opening of the Gurre Lieder
This is a very short compared listening.

Missing the pioneer Susskind, I heard Ferencsik, idiomatic but a little dull.
Neeme Järvi: good conducting but rather straussian.
One of my preferred CDs was Boulez in New York (1977). It remains my favorite: such wit, colors, rhythms, it equals his famous Petrushka with the same orchestra (1971).
His remake in Chicago (1992 – DG) is superbly played but lacks of some life and sounds a little thick.
Dorati with the London symphony gives a superb account, lively, more ballet like than dramatic.
Korody‘s (1976) presents nice sonority but is rather placid. 
Iván Fischer in Budapest again (1997) gives a good lecture, unclear in the 2nd Dance, but rather lively and with characterized phrasing, a good version.
Graf in Houston (2005) : superb orchestra and recording, lacking of some wit sometimes. 
Alsop in Bournemouth (2008) gives nice details, phrasings and characterization but lacks of some atmosphere.
Mälkki in Helsinki (2019) gives again a good lecture, but rather cold.

Conclusion: I stick to Boulez 1, but there aren’t ‘bad’ versions. For a second choice, maybe Dorati and Fischer.

2 thoughts on “Bela Bartok – Wooden Prince ballet discography”

  1. Merci pour cet excellent article. Je reste pour ma part attaché à la version Dorati, grâce peut-être au magnifique orchestre et à la prise de son hors norme. Le début de l’œuvre m’a toujours fait penser plutôt au début de l’Or du Rhin…

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