Prom 25: RPO/Dutoit at the Royal Albert Hall


If there was a theme to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert with the veteran conductor Charles Dutoit it was not a happy one. Here was Bartók, a collector of folk songs red and raw, with an opera as black as night and a fairytale without a fairytale ending. Here was Dvorák, a faithful husband and father of nine, remembering his late first love in music as soft and clear as sunlight through leaves. What do his Cello Concerto and Duke Bluebeard’s Castle have in common? Three words: leave me alone.

Prom 25: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Dutoit – Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle with Ildikó Komlósi & John Relyea – Alban Gerhardt plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto


“The tale is old / That shall be told”. John Relyea has one of those voices that seem to come from a couple of hundred metres underground. Speaking the Prologue to Bartók's Bluebeard´s Castle, Relyea had us gasping, so volcanic did it sound. It was delivered in English, which was a pity, especially as the Ildikó Komlósi made a point of telling us in the programme how good Relyea’s Hungarian pronunciation is.

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Prom 25: Behind closed doors: Poetic drama from Dutoit in Bluebeard's Castle


What do you pair with Bartók’s Bluebeard's Castle? Over the years, the hour-long psychological thriller of an opera has been paired with everything from Poulenc’s cabaret monologue La voix humaine to Tchaikovsky’s beatific Iolantato, oddly enough, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Met’s first performances of the Bartók. Even then, I’d never expected to see it on a programme with Dvořák’s monumental Cello Concerto – a dramatic tour de force of an evening requiring the very best soloists. Despite this, it was conductor Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra who emerged as the true stars of the evening.

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Prom 25: Gerhardt, Komlósi, Relyea, RPO, Dutoit


The power of quiet in two middle-European masterpieces

"Let the song speak, I pray," exhorts the Bard in the Prologue to Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, "Listen in silence." This was a night for leaning in and listening closely, despite the large forces arrayed on stage for Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and Bartók’s opera.

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