116. Uneasy listening. Scary music for modern times: Bartók, Music for strings, percussion and celesta

I’m no fan of horror films – too scary for me – but, in any case, nothing really scares us more than the thoughts in our heads! I do love scary music though and Béla Bartók wrote the best. Music for strings, percussion and celesta is unusual, gripping, terrifying and thrilling. It’s also brilliant at clearing my mind of any ‘unneccessary’ thinking.

Listening time 40 mins (podcast 11′, music 29′).

Listen to the complete music, played by the awesome Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer:

or Susanna Mälkki conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic on Apple Music (where you have to find the tracks after track 1, sorry):

Sometimes, especially with unfamiliar, complex, music I find it’s good to have something to watch – it can help guide our ears a bit, and make concentration easier. There’s are two exellent filmed performances on youtube: this one shot during the pandemic with no audience , with the Oslo Philharmonic and conductor Vasily Petrenko, and

this one from The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Alan Gilbert. It’s got a noisy audience, but the France Musique cameracrews are allowed to move around the stage, which makes for much more interesting video than you often get with orchestras on tv. Which means they catch things like this fantastic smile of musical- and colleague- enjoyment from the harpist too: Watch these few seconds anyway!

You can buy the recordings as downloads, here (Fischer) (& here (Mälkki))

Charlie Chaplin youtube links from Modern Times: Nonsense song, Skating scene, complete film.

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