INKPOT#64 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: BARTOK Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Otter/Tomlinson/BPO/Haitink (EMI)
A Kkszakll herceg vra.
Opera in one act, Op.11 (1911).
Libretto by Bla Balzs after fairy tale by Perrault.Judith Anne Sofie von Otter mezzo-soprano
Bluebeard John Tomlinson bass
Speaker Sandor Els
Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by Bernard Haitink
EMI Classics CDC 5 56162-2
by Chua Guan Ee
This recording, taped from ‘live’ performances at the Philharmonie in Berlin in 1996, was greeted with much acclaim upon its appearance and rightly so. Throughout, Haitink and the Berlin Philharmonic strive for a note-perfect rendering of the score that does not sound the least bit contrived. Much attention is paid to the atmospherical aspects of the music, revealing the conductor’s realisation of the composer’s intentions.
Anne Sofie von Otter (below right) is a sublime, sweet-voiced ‘Judith’ who manages without effort to adopt the swift mood-changes her character demands; and John Tomlinson gives us a dark-hued, though undistinguished, Bluebeard. The oration that precedes the opera-proper is effectively undertaken by Sandor Els, brilliantly creating the spooky ambience. Although none of the artists involved in this recording (save for the narrator) are Hungarian, it has been applauded for its faithfulness to the language thanks, no less, to efficient language-coaching.
Already from the opening music one is likely to recall Debussy’s Pellas, and Haitink’s reputation as an accomplished Debussyian serves him in good stead. Accompaniment is duly sensitive, echoing in every phrase and turn the characters’ lyrical exchanges; and most times setting the pace for abrupt shifts of mood.
Sample, for example, the final bars of the Prologue, where a sense of unease underlines Judith’s impending doom: what superb orchestral response Haitink (left) draws from the Berliners! The loveliest music can be heard when Judith opens the sixth door to Bluebeard’s ‘Lake of Tears’, and the characters’ plaintive exchanges are most memorable.
It would surely be a mistake to overlook this, surely one of Bartók’s masterpieces in any genre; and Haitink’s recording, no doubt, is one to suit all tastes!
In Singapore, EMI discs are available at or can be ordered from Sing Discs (Raffles City), Tower Records (Pacific Plaza and Suntec City), HMV (The Heeren) and Borders (Wheelock Place).
Behind his seventh door, Chua Guan Ee hides his ghastly collection of mutilated musicians… The Inkpot reviewers often go there to dispose of unwanted friends, or just for kicks.