Jaren Hinckley

Composer / Clarinetist

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Béla Bartók

April 2, 2014



TITLE: The Wooden Prince


DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:  This is a short ballet (about an hour) with a fairly normal fairy-tale story.  Here it is: while walking through the forest a handsome prince spies a princess dancing and falls in love.  A fairy nearby doesn’t want him to fall in love with the princess, so she causes the various parts of the forest to come to life—trees, the river, etc.—to convince the prince to stay. When the prince can’t get the princess’s attention, he builds a wooden dummy that looks like him.  It comes to life and she falls in love with it.  Then it breaks and she sees the real prince, who is sad that she fell in love with the dummy and not him.  She consoles him and the ballet ends with the two of them falling in love.


Yep, it’s a tad odd.  But when you think about it, it’s not outside the realm of normal fairy tale weirdness either.


In the “Dance of the Waves” section, there is a moment where the saxophone plays a soloistic role (something relatively rare in classical music).  Most professional orchestras don’t even bother to keep a saxophonist on their roster—they just hire them as needed–that’s how rare saxes show up in classical music.

Here’s the part featuring alto sax and tenor sax in octaves:



I also enjoyed the “Dance of the Princess and the Wooden Prince.”  I enjoy the rapidly changing moods throughout.  Here’s an excerpt (you’ll hear at least five or six different themes/moods):



The opening of that excerpt reminded me of another ballet—“Gayaneh” by an Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian.  See what you think…This excerpt first plays the part from Bartok’s ballet, then Khachaturian’s, then back and forth one more time.



Hmmm…I wonder which one came first?


HIGHLIGHT:  For me, the opening few minutes are enchanting and magical.  Then again, perhaps I always feel that way with any quality piece of music when I’m listening to it for the first time.  In this case, the hushed strings, plucked harp chords, and mellow trombone solo, make me feel as though I’m right there in the enchanted forest. Here’s an excerpt:



The music is so lovely throughout, I’m not sure why this isn’t performed more frequently.  Seek it out and listen to the entire thing.


WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY Bartók?: a lot, but I’ll do it!