Susanna Mälkki’s premiere recording with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Béla Bartók’s The Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin, is now available for pre-order. During her first season as Chief Conductor in 2016-17, Ms. Mälkki and the ensemble signed a recording contract with BIS Records for four discs to be recorded over the next few years, of which this is the first. The album is due for worldwide release on June 7, 2019. For more information and for pre-order links, visit Susanna’s Discography.
The Wooden Prince and The Miraculous Mandarin are together with the earlier opera Bluebeards Castle the only stage works by Béla Bartók. They stand apart from the more abstract and often more explicitly folk-related character of the music that we primarily associate with the composer. They are nevertheless major achievements that in different ways highlight Bartóks imaginative use of the modern orchestra. Set in an enchanted forest, The Wooden Prince is based on a fairytale-like libretto featuring a prince and princess. The two are subjected to various trials, but at the end of the ballet they are allowed to come together and live we assume happily ever after. In stark contrast, The Miraculous Mandarin takes place in an urban brothel where three robbers force a girl to seduce men so that they can overpower and kill them. The subject-matter and the erotic qualities of much of the music caused a scandal at the première in 1926, and for a long time the score was primarily performed in the shorter concert version heard on the present release, the first from the team of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Susanna Mälkki, the orchestras chief conductor since 2016.