Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Hänssler faszinationmusik
WORKS: Bluebeard’s Castle
PERFORMER: Cornelia Kallisch, Péter Fried; SWR Stuttgart RSO/Peter Eötvös
Bartók’s one-act opera may be more rarely staged than its musical mastery would warrant, but the record industry has long been keeping it alive in the listener’s mind. This latest release is a live recording by a conductor fully in tune with Bartók’s idiom. Peter Eötvös extracts all the lurid colouring of the composer’s orchestration, bringing special emphasis to the semitonal motif of ‘blood’ that tarnishes the visions through each open doorway, and the inexorable drive towards knowledge and destiny is keenly felt in the pacing of the music. One misses the sound-effect sighs called for in the score, but the overall balance, for a concert-hall recording, is richly delineated.


Cornelia Kallisch sounds less idiomatic in the Hungarian text than some of her rivals, but conveys Judith’s impulsiveness and, ultimately, resignation to her fate. Only the top C at the opening of the Fifth Door sounds a struggle, but that just increases the sense of awe as the grandeur of Bluebeard’s domain is laid out before her, with the organ magnificently crowning the orchestra. Péter Fried, singing in his native language, sounds more on top of the words, but his tone splays a little under pressure. Neither singer quite matches the admittedly over-played duel of Anne Sofie von Otter and John Tomlinson for Haitink (EMI) or the intensity of Tatiana Troyanos and Siegmund Nimsgern with Boulez and the BBC Symphony (Sony), the latter a recording where psychological drama and musical integrity run in nigh-perfect harmony. Hänssler’s booklet provides the text in German only – not even the Hungarian being sung. Matthew Rye