The Wooden Prince is a fairy tale ballet with an original story by Bartók’s literary acquaintance Béla Balázs, who had also written the libretto to Bluebeard’s Castle (available on Naxos 8.660928). Though outwardly sunny in its subject matter, The Wooden Prince has a mystical side that may explain Bartók’s attraction to the story. The ballet’s opening pages have often been compared to the opening of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, and the majestic heart of the score lies in the glorious music Bartók wrote to accompany the prince’s apotheosis.
"... Alsop does a very fine job of coaxing the maximum mystery and atmosphere from this underrated score, and given the fine audio quality, one can’t really quibble."
"The Wooden Prince (1917) is an epic orchestral narrative: he himself described it as a ‘symphonic poem for dancing’. The bizarre story concerns a prince who falls in love with a princess in a magic forest and attracts her interest with a dancing puppet version of himself. Bartók’s music blends some very mild modernism with enormous, late-Romantic orchestral firepower—clearly this is a young master-composer at work—and the renowned Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under the skilled hands of Marin Alsop brings an impressively strong response to his demands. The recorded acoustic is a touch overspacious and boomy—but better that, in a huge score like this, than too tight." ****