Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Decca Classic Sound
WORKS: Bluebeard’s Castle
PERFORMER: Walter Berry, Christa LudwigLSO/István Kertész
CATALOGUE NO: 443 571-2 ADDReissue
This famous recording of Bartók’s psychological drama is nearly three decades old, but it still sends shivers down the spine in all the right places. At the time of recording (November 1965), Walter Berry was in his mid-thirties, Christa Ludwig (his real-life wife) just a few years older. He sings Bluebeard with great dignity and with the utmost strength (especially at the opening of the fifth door), but also invokes our compassion towards the close. Ludwig’s Judith is full of spirit, pushy and emotionally manipulative; it’s as if she married him purely to satisfy her voyeuristic curiosity as to whether all those rumours about his earlier wives were true. Both give fully involving performances, magnificently sung (though I can’t comment on their Hungarian). Kertész conducts expertly, and the LSO (of which he was the new principal conductor) responds well. Producer Erik Smith used Sixties state-of-the-art stereo to help create a suitably atmospheric sound-world, complete with truly eerie off-stage sighing. This mid-price reissue, complete with the full text and English translation, is the sort of release that could just give record companies a good name. Stephen Maddock