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Thread: Bartók on disc - Bluebeard's Castle

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Default Bartók on disc - Bluebeard's Castle

    I was bored and watched some excerpts of Solti's DVD for Bluebeard's Castle. It's an one-act opera composed by Béla Bartók and written in Hungarian by Béla Balázs. In the discography of this 20th century opera we find three versions. The original in Hungarian, and two translations in English and German.

    Do you care about the translations? Do you have any preference?

    When I finish my first table of Beethoven Symphony Cycles I could do a challenge on this Opera. My favourite recording is live from Lucerne Festival and sung in German.



    There are other stereo recordings from the main labels:

    • Ormandy PhO (E)
    • Kubelík Lucerne (G)
    • Fricsay RIAS (G)
    • Kertész LSO (H)
    • Sawallisch BaySO (H)
    • Boulez CSO (H)
    • Boulez BBC SO (H)
    • Solti LPO (H)


    Can you name your favourite, and how much do you like this work inside Bartók's catalogue?

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granate View Post
    I was bored and watched some excerpts of Solti's DVD for Bluebeard's Castle. It's an one-act opera composed by Béla Bartók and written in Hungarian by Béla Balázs. In the discography of this 20th century opera we find three versions. The original in Hungarian, and two translations in English and German.

    Do you care about the translations? Do you have any preference?

    When I finish my first table of Beethoven Symphony Cycles I could do a challenge on this Opera. My favourite recording is live from Lucerne Festival and sung in German.



    There are other stereo recordings from the main labels:

    • Ormandy PhO (E)
    • Kubelík Lucerne (G)
    • Fricsay RIAS (G)
    • Kertész LSO (H)
    • Sawallisch BaySO (H)
    • Boulez CSO (H)
    • Boulez BBC SO (H)
    • Solti LPO (H)


    Can you name your favourite, and how much do you like this work inside Bartók's catalogue?
    The only one I have is Boulez/CSO. I really like it. Not Bartok at his most progressive but really nice music. I tend to lean toward the Bartok of the string quartet oeuvre.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Default Bartók's Bluebeard Castle - My favourite recordings

    Result of the challenge: undecided

    Between two of the Beethoven “tables” I made a challenge with the main recordings of Bartók’s Bluebeard Castle, one of the few 20th century works to grasp my attention yet. I watched Solti’s DVD subtitle and I felt like watching an exciting Indie film with an underwhelming ending. The positive side of the work for me is that the thrill and beauty is more around the doors than the final 8th door.

    And in terms of recordings it has been quite underwhelming for me too. I had no particular winner but four favourites that fulfilled my needs of orchestral sound, language, dynamics and singing quality. I didn’t like the fan favourite recording by Kertész with the LSO, Walter Berry and Christa Ludwig. It didn’t satisfy me in the singing (quite lightweight singers and focus on the drama) and even less in the Decca echoing dynamics. I didn’t enjoy Boulez’s first try with the work in Sony Classical (BBC SO), mainly because of his style with the orchestra, not the singers. Solti’s studio account was the opposite: opulent orchestral sound by the London Philharmonic with two fine singers in Hungarian. It was my fifth favourite. I was overly impressed for Haitink’s recording with the BPO (excellent sound and fine singers) and Sawallisch stayed a little behind (good orchestral performance and great Varady but DFD was the definition of tireness).



    Of these four different recordings, I don’t know which to like the most. They are not spectacularly good either. Each has their own advantages:



    Bartók
    A kékszakállú herceg vára Sz.48
    Jessye Norman, László Polgár
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Pierre Boulez
    Deutsche Grammophon (1998)


    Not that Boulez’s way of conducting is my preference for this work (not at all), but the elegance of the recording is enough for a high mark. It's not easy to do it. Both singers are really believable and it’s my favourite Hungarian-speaking recording. Impressive 4D sound.



    Bartók
    Herzog Blaubarts Burg Sz.48
    Hertha Töpper, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
    Ferenc Fricsay
    Deutsche Grammophon (1958/2001 Remastered Edition)


    I would have a problem with the orchestral sound because of the early stereo equipment. The dynamics are not very clean. The vocal miking however could not be better. Maybe I have not liked Hertha Töpper as much as she deserved because she is literally eaten by a commanding Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau that scares the hell out of me. It’s a miracle that his voice could be recorded in stereo. In German.



    Bartók
    Herzog Blaubarts Burg Sz.48, Live recording
    Irmgard Seefried, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Swiss Festival Orchestra
    Rafael Kubelík
    Audite (1962/2014 Remastered Edition)


    My favourite performance overall, with an extremely clean sound. It was the first version to make me fall in love more than one year ago. Kubelík conducts the orchestra and turns the score in a menacing atmosphere. Seefried outperforms Töpper and Fischer-Dieskau is just slightly tamer than in studio. Both are really credible, and this recording is the one I think it drives me in the most. In German and Mono.



    Bartók
    Bluebeard’s Castle Sz.48
    Rosalind Elias, Jerome Hines
    Philadelphia Orchestra
    Eugene Ormandy
    Sony Classical (1960/2018 Remastered Edition)


    It may be odd, but the new Sony remaster has elevated this recording to new heights. The Philadephia Orchestra is spectacular and spacious. Elias and Hines are levelled in performance quality and they make me believe the work was duly composed in English. Give it a try.

    Top 5-11
    05: Solti LPO
    06: Kertész LSO
    07: Boulez BBC SO
    08: Haitink BPO
    09: Sawallisch BaySO
    10: Doráti LSO
    11: Fischer HSO
    Last edited by Granate; Mar-16-2018 at 13:12.

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    I love this opera. Bartók is one of my favorite 20th-century composers, too; I love so much of his music.

    I have not, however, done comparative listening of this opera. I should! And I think I will start, when I do, with your top 4. The 1962 Kubelík is not on Spotify, but a 1981 recording with the NYPO (with Tatiana Troyanos and Siegmund Nimsgern) is available.

    Looking around, I see there is also a version Japanese, Jozef Rosenstock conducting NHK Symphony Orchestra in 1957 on Naxos!

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    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountmccabe View Post
    The 1962 Kubelík is not on Spotify, but a 1981 recording with the NYPO (with Tatiana Troyanos and Siegmund Nimsgern) is available.
    Spotify link for Bluebeard Lucerne

    Spotify link for Bluebeard Kertész

    Try it and see if it works! I sampled it from Qobuz (which has finally arrived in Spain and I'm using the free trial).

    But do count the Kertész in your comparison. It's the fan favourite.

    Last edited by Granate; Mar-16-2018 at 18:32.

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    Ah-ha! Thank you.

    I'm sure I will add in additional versions. The Kertész will be low on the priority list but I might get to it; it's one of the ones - along with the Sawallisch - I know I've heard.

    I'm not doing this any time soon, though! For now I am listening to some of his other music. Right now it is A fából faragott királyfi, aka The Wooden Prince.

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