Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Bluebeard’s Castle
PERFORMER: Walter Berry, Christa Ludwig; LSO/István Kertész
CATALOGUE NO: 466 377-2 ADD Reissue (1965)
This classic account of Bartok’s opera has had to face up to some stiff competition since it was first released in the mid-1960s; and very impressive though it still is, I have to confess that it is no longer my first choice for this marvellous score. Istvan Kertész shapes the music admirably, and Walter Berry makes an appropriately compassionate Bluebeard (as opposed to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on DG, who is altogether too menacing); but neither Berry, nor, for all the beauty of her tone, Christa Ludwig sound idiomatically Hungarian. Compare Ludwig’s Judith with Eva Márton’s (Sony), and you hear a singer who really knows what every word means. Of the other Judiths on record, only Anne-Sofie von Otter, on Haitink’s finely conducted EMI performance, can match Márton’s insight. But with a first-rate Bluebeard in Samuel Ramey, and a Hungarian orchestra and conductor (Adam Fischer) who plainly know the piece inside-out, that Sony version remains hard to beat. Misha Donat