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Béla Bartók: A kékszakállú herceg vára, opus 11
Sir John Tomlinson (Bluebeard), Michelle DeYoung (Judith), Juliet Stevenson (narrator), Philharmonia Voices, The Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen (conductor)
Recorded live at the Konzerthaus, Vienna (November 8, 2011) – 66’23
Signum Classics SIGCD372 – Libretto in Hungarian and English; notes in English

This CD features one of the most stupendous orchestral performances I have ever heard thanks to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s handling of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. The combination of huge orchestral power under surgically precise control makes for a rivetting sonic experience. Unfortunately, the two singers seem to be at some distance from the microphones although they seem to be giving performances as fully committed as that of the orchestra.

Both John Tomlinson and Michelle DeYoung give all-out, dramatic performances. However, the ever-dominating orchestra overshadows them. A pity.

Actress Juliet Stevenson narrates the work’s brief prologue, something I had never heard before. It seems to have been dropped from performances and recordings of the piece; it is of only minor interest.

The most recommendable recording of this work remains the 1965 recording under István Kertész with Walter Berry and Christa Ludwig. This recording might well have rivalled it had the voices been equally balanced with the orchestra.

Michael Johnson




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