Finghin Collins (piano), Hedwig Fassbender (soprano), Nikita Storeziev (bass), National Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Anissimov


Hary Janos (extracts) - Kodaly

Piano Concerto No.2 - Liszt

Duke Bluebeard's Castle - Bartok

LAST Friday's concert managed to sandwich Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2 between a suite by Kodaly and Bartok's only opera: two of the six movements of the Hary Janos Suite were omitted to prevent the evening being over-long. This strange programming was less than just to Kodaly, whose Suite was ignominiously curtailed, and to Finghin Collins, whose skilful interpretation of Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2 had to compete for attention with the extravagantly expressive, and much more Hungarian atmosphere of Duke Bluebeard's Castle.

Both the Kodaly and the Bartok use an orchestra of over 100 players; the latter composer uses the immense volume of the sound at his disposal to great dramatic effect, but in Kodaly's folk tale of a Hungarian Munchhausen, the hero's sense of humour can as easily founder beneath the waves of sound as can the rather thin tones of the cimbalom (a sort of large zither whose strings are struck with hammers). The conductor, Alexander Anissimov, conjured a great weight of sound from the NSO, and this created an astounding and hair-raising climax in the Bartok, but it detracted from the perkiness of the Hary Janos.

Duke Bluebeard's Castle is an opera with hardly any action; its drama, interiorised in the mind, is more easily appreciated on record than on stage. A concert performance such as we were given, falls between two stools, and the surtitles, though accurate, gave less information than was needed.

Hedwig Fassbiner, as Judith, showed herself to be involved in the drama without the aid of histrionics, but Nikita Storoiev, as Bluebeard, rather overdid the impassivity, giving the impression of acting from weakness rather than strength. The message of the libretto, however, is ambiguous, and the two characters speak their minds most clearly in the orchestra, with that mixture of power and imprecision that is the gift of music. Anissimov's impulsive but controlled reading made for an exciting and memorable performance.