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Bartok Analisys Lendvai and others

Bartok Analisys Lendvai and others


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In the closing “Night” scene, also called “Epilogue”437

, the circle of the composition

is closed with a recapitulation of material from the beginning of the opera (0/1–16;

Example 4.1, p. 204, Chapter 4.4.1). Bluebeard is left alone on the stage, where he
sings the following lines, which are additions that Bartók made to the original text:
És mindég is éjjel lesz már... éjjel... éjjel...” (Henceforth all shall be darkness...
darkness... darkness...) His melody outlines C–C-sharp–D–E-sharp–F-sharp–G–A,
displayed as a set in Figure 4.186 (see also Table 4.58, below).

2 5




6 9

Figure 4.186. Set {0,1,2,5,6,7,9}, C = 0.

Section Rehearsal/measure numbers Synopsis



Bluebeard’s last lines.



Bluebeard disappears; total darkness on stage.

Table 4.58. Structure of the closing “Night” scene, 121/1–137/10.

The F-sharp pentatonic theme, F-sharp–A–B–C-sharp–E (Figure 4.187) from the

beginning of the opera (0/1–16; Example 4.1, p. 204, Chapter 4.4.1), is harmonized

with chords based on that pentatonic minor, including minor triads and other tonal


7 10

0 3

Figure 4.187. Set {0,3,5,7,10}.

Fragments of the menacing motif from the opening “Night” scene (0/16–19) re-

appear in 138/4–5, 9–10; 139/4–5, 9–11; and 140/1–2, 4. The horn lines of those

passages are explored in Table 4.59 and Figure 4.188.

Rehearsal/measure numbers Pitch-Class

Point 0 Set







Table 4.59. Horn lines, 138/4–139/6.

437. It is based on the constant intervallic symmetry of the half-step.

4. Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle — 293

2 5



Figure 4.188. Set {0,2,4,5}.

The F-sharp melody is harmonized with chords that grow in dissonance, while

Bluebeard sings the last word on an oscillating tritone/diminished ffth (Table 4.60

and Figure 4.189, below).

ure numbers Text

Pitch-Class Point 0 Set Forte-number ICV


éjjel” (night)


{0,6}2–6 (6)



éjjel” (night)



{0,6}{0, 6}


Table 4.60. Bluebeard’s lines, 139/4–5 and 139/9–10.



Figure 4.189. Set {0,6}.

In this context, the F-sharp tonality regains it dramatic association with darkness
(Example 4.26, next page).
The Night is a symbolic center into which everything collapses, an emblem of
stillness and cold. Bluebeard found Judith at night. Before she came to the castle,
and now that she has departed from Bluebeard, all the doors are locked, and, again,

there is darkness. (Lendvai 1988: 142; see also, Table 4.1, p. 191, Chapter 4.3.)

Leafstedt observes that:

The idea of bringing back the opening music at the end was Bartók’s own, a ges-
ture inspired perhaps by the stage direction prescribing “total darkness” for the

fnal moments – a return to the stage lighting of the beginning – and by his frm

grasp of the play’s inherent symbolic dimension. (Leafstedt 1999: 58.)

The four-line pentatonic melody ends, and the curtain closes over the tragedy.
The harmonic resolution remains vague. The dissonant Blood motif makes its last
appearance in the clarinets, as F-sharp–G (140/6–8). Then the music softly dies
away, ending with an imperfect cadence (140/9–11).
Bartók extensively revised Bluebeard’s Castle, both after composing it and prior
to its performances, often at the last moment. In February 1912, Bartók made a few
musical changes in the manuscript, and composed a new ending to the opera (Exam-
ple 4.26, next page). He struggled throughout his career with the large-scale form of
his pieces, and especially with the problem of endings. Unlike Stravinsky or Webern,
Bartók did not like to leave his pieces “open” – ending with a question mark or with
unresolved contrasts. Nor did he want the resolution to come about in a simple or

294 — Principles of Pitch Organization in Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Example 4.26. Closing Night theme, 138/1–140/11.
© 1921 by Universal Edition A. G., Wien/UE 7026, used by kind permission.

4. Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle — 295

easy manner. In several cases, he changed the shape of the fnale at the suggestion

of performers, as in the Sonata for Solo Violin (the last movement of which exists
in two versions) and the Concerto for Orchestra (Sz 116, BB 123, 1944).438

made major cuts in the fnale of the Sonata (1926) during the compositional process,
and discarded his entire conception of the last movement of the Sixth String Quartet
(Sz 114, BB 119, 1939)439

at a relatively late stage of composition.
Bartók composed three versions of the ending of the opera, from 1911 to 1918,
all focusing on Bluebeard’s and Judith’s last words to each other, and on the return
of the opening F-sharp-pentatonic theme to conclude the work440

(Leafstedt 1999:

125–158; 2000: 226; and Kroó 1981). Leafstedt remarks on some of those changes:

By 1918, the extramusical associations of the major-seventh chord must have no
longer been very strong for Bartók. What had seemed to him, in 1911, such a per-
fect symbol of the emotional heartache of love – a symbolic relationship worthy
of emphasis at the opera’s conclusion – must have now appeared unnecessarily
obvious. He therefore made little effort to retain this feature of the original. As

he went back to revise the opera, he removed the major sevenths from the fnal

version of the ending and rewrote Bluebeard’s pentatonic lines. Of the former
musical symbolism, only the melodic half-step remains in Judith’s vocal part to

remind us of the opera’s tragic conclusion: that the fulfllment of love also brings

the death of love. The original ending of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle brought that
symbolism sharply into focus. (Leafstedt 2000: 243.)

438. On Bartók’s concertos, see Schneider (1997) and Suchoff (1995).
439. The Sixth String Quartet was completed in November 1940, just before Bartók immigrated to
the United States (see Abraham 1942). The Sixth String Quartet, to some extent, represents a return
to the lyrical, Romantic style of the First Quartet (see pp. 26–27, Chapter 2.1.2, and n. 90, p. 45,
Chapter 2.1.3). See also, Abraham (1945); and Kárpáti (1975).
440. Kodály’s frst wife, Emma, had made a German translation of the libretto (Demény, ed. 1976:

313). Bartók continued to revise the opera, making alterations for the published vocal score in
1921, and changes in vocal declamation during the 1930’s. Six complete manuscript scores of
Bluebeard’s Castle and one six-page fragment survive. Five of those scores date from the years

1911–1912; the other two date from 1917–1918 and ca. 1922, respectively. On Bartók’s revisions,

a detailed listing of source material is provided in Kroó (1981) and Leafstedt (1999: 125–158).
Kroó traces the progress of Bartók’s revisions from 1911 to 1921 and even further, when the com-
poser condoned minor changes in the vocal parts for stage and radio performances in the 1920’s
and 1930’s. Kroó, using source materials held in Hungary and the United States, compares various
endings of the opera, giving us insight into Bartók’s approach to composition and dramaturgy.
Kroó establishes dates for Bartók’s revisions and presents the revised vocal parts of Bluebeard that
were written after publication of the work. Leafstedt (1999: 128–130) lists the principal sources of
the opera in chronological order, beginning with Bartók’s autograph draft.

296 — Principles of Pitch Organization in Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

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