Author Topic: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle  (Read 28319 times)

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Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2011, 12:31:29 PM »
Haven't heard Dorati's, but would like to--and Gergiev's, too.

PS, as for the spoken introduction, I like it, but don't have strong feelings if it's not included. On Haitink's recording it's done by Sandor Elès, who gives it his creepy, Boris Karloff best.  :D

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I see.  On the Fischer recording on Philips it seems to be spoken over the orchestral introduction.  In most cases, it seems to be spoken separately, which is what I would prefer. 

Somewhat annoying that most recordings of this piece are out of print at the moment (including both Boulez and the Haitink).

Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2011, 12:38:19 PM »
On the Fischer recording on Philips it seems to be spoken over the orchestral introduction.  In most cases, it seems to be spoken separately, which is what I would prefer. 


To me the introduction is most effective if the speaker begins alone, and then just before he finishes--maybe ten seconds or so--the quiet introduction begins underneath, almost creating the impression that the opera is being told in flashback. But again, no strong feelings, either way.

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Offline Luke

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2011, 12:54:30 PM »
Re the spoken introduction - I love it, and I don't care that, not speaking Hungarian, I don't understand it without a translation to hand. How boring if we have to understand every word to make hearing the thing worthwhile! The fact that I can discern a shape, a rhyme, a rhythm, a pattern to it, but that I'm not sure exactly what it entails, actually increases the work's mysterious potency, for me. Though I haven't listened to the piece for quite a while, I can hear some of those words, chillingly, in my head right now.....regi var, regi mar....I don't even remember what that means, but it clearly means something, just out of reach (the castle is old, the story is old....? is that what the bit I'm remembering means?) and for me, that make it a tinglingly potent listening experience.

I have the Kertesz and the Haitink and I wouldn't be without either - but the Haitink is the one I return to most often, for some reason. The opera itself is one of a very select bunch for me - I think it's one of the finest and most significant operas of the 20th century, and a fitting expressionist-symbolist sibling to Debussy impressionist-symbolist Pelleas: both in their unique worlds of dream logic and half light... For me, the exquisite scoring of the music for the lake of tears is perhaps the supreme highlight of the score. A long time ago it was my mystery score 89 on The World's Finest Thread (I'd reattach it if I could - click here if you want to see it). Here is music where the ultra-detailed orchestration is everything (because the musical material itself is slight). With just brief flickers of instrumental sound Bartok paints the most extraordinary picture of water and waves, but also of tears, of sorrow, of time passing. Incredible.


karlhenning

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2011, 12:55:35 PM »
To me the introduction is most effective if the speaker begins alone, and then just before he finishes--maybe ten seconds or so--the quiet introduction begins underneath, almost creating the impression that the opera is being told in flashback. But again, no strong feelings, either way.

I should check the score . . . I imagine that is how Bartók notated it.

Offline Luke

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2011, 12:56:10 PM »
To me the introduction is most effective if the speaker begins alone, and then just before he finishes--maybe ten seconds or so--the quiet introduction begins underneath, almost creating the impression that the opera is being told in flashback. But again, no strong feelings, either way.

--Bruce

Yes, I agree, those low string basses stealing in underneath is a wonderful moment, and, though it's not entirely clear, that way of performing it is what the layout of the score implies, IIRC (I'll check when I'm next at home!)

Offline Luke

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #25 on: January 26, 2011, 12:57:51 PM »
I should check the score . . . I imagine that is how Bartók notated it.

As far as I remember from my treasured Philharmonia score, the poem is printed directly over the first lines of the score. As I said, I want to check now!

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #26 on: January 26, 2011, 01:02:50 PM »
It's good to see that this opera has a good following here. I was completely skeptical of all opera for a long time, but when I heard Bluebeard's Castle, I finally had found an opera I could stand behind that I truly loved. If feel the same way about Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande and now Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortileges. These operas have opened my eyes and gave me an entire new respect for the genre. I really have to thank my Grandfather for nagging me about trying to listen to more opera. He kept saying "Find an opera you like!" or "You're really missing out." If he hadn't done this, I probably wouldn't be here talking about it at all.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2011, 01:06:05 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #27 on: January 26, 2011, 01:05:30 PM »
I have the Kertesz and the Haitink and I wouldn't be without either - but the Haitink is the one I return to most often, for some reason. The opera itself is one of a very select bunch for me - I think it's one of the finest and most significant operas of the 20th century, and a fitting expressionist-symbolist sibling to Debussy impressionist-symbolist Pelleas: both in their unique worlds of dream logic and half light... For me, the exquisite scoring of the music for the lake of tears is perhaps the supreme highlight of the score. A long time ago it was my mystery score 89 on The World's Finest Thread (I'd reattach it if I could - click here if you want to see it). Here is music where the ultra-detailed orchestration is everything (because the musical material itself is slight). With just brief flickers of instrumental sound Bartok paints the most extraordinary picture of water and waves, but also of tears, of sorrow, of time passing. Incredible.

I like Haitink's very much, too. Recently I brought it to test it out on a friend's state-of-the-art sound system, which revealed that the recording--while very good--seems to have been made at some distance from the musicians. But never mind: if the recording itself didn't "wow" him as much as I'd hoped, he thought it was a very emotional account of the piece.

And I also love that "lake of tears" coloration--very, very imaginative.

--Bruce
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Offline Luke

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #28 on: January 26, 2011, 01:10:25 PM »
As far as I remember from my treasured Philharmonia score, the poem is printed directly over the first lines of the score. As I said, I want to check now!

I looked on IMSLP at the vocal score - there's the poem, in Hungarian and Russian, followed by 'ЗаНавес поднимается' and Hungarian equivalent - that's 'Curtain rises', I believe - and then the first line of the music. So it doesn't explicitly say that they should overlap - but it makes so much sense if they do!

MI - exactly - and you have there, in potted form, a condensed-as-possible list of most of my own touchstone 20th century operas (outside Berg's two and Janacek's best four or five, naturally  ;D ). That all three are utter fantasy/symbolic/dream/enchantment pieces is no coincidence, I think. It's why they belong together in my mind, anyway, I think, and why talking of them in the same paragraph as (by implication) Wozzeck or House of the Dead seems peculiar!

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #30 on: January 26, 2011, 01:14:40 PM »
MI - exactly - and you have there, in potted form, a condensed-as-possible list of most of my own touchstone 20th century operas (outside Berg's two and Janacek's best four or five, naturally  ;D ). That all three are utter fantasy/symbolic/dream/enchantment pieces is no coincidence, I think. It's why they belong together in my mind, anyway, I think, and why talking of them in the same paragraph as (by implication) Wozzeck or House of the Dead seems peculiar!

Yes, I wouldn't want to be without Berg and Janacek either! :D I just like the more psychological operas.
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Offline Luke

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #31 on: January 26, 2011, 01:15:50 PM »
Nothing in music more psychologically probing than Berg or Janacek, though!

Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #32 on: January 26, 2011, 01:20:29 PM »
(IMSLP vocal score, for them as likes such things)

Thanks, Luke! (Doh, should have thought to look here myself.)

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Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #33 on: January 27, 2011, 03:59:37 AM »
I looked on IMSLP at the vocal score - there's the poem, in Hungarian and Russian, followed by 'ЗаНавес поднимается' and Hungarian equivalent - that's 'Curtain rises', I believe - and then the first line of the music. So it doesn't explicitly say that they should overlap - but it makes so much sense if they do!

Look again!  The last stanza of the prologue, including the "Regi var, regi mar" you mention above, is printed above bars 5-15 of the opening music, after 'Curtain rises' and the music begins. 
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 04:08:04 AM by Wendell_E »
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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #34 on: January 27, 2011, 04:44:01 AM »
Ah, so it is! Thank you - so that's OK then, my preferred way is the right way.  ;D  I don't remember it doing that in the full score, though, which is what I have at home and what I haven't checked yet. Maybe it does...

Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2011, 02:07:36 PM »
I guess the thread is intended to focus on the work rather than recordings, but having listened to the work for the first time I have a few comments which would be most appropriate here.

This is the recording I listened to (Kertesz with Berry and Ludwig on Decca).



To sum up, I would say I think it is a great piece, but I find the recording very unpleasant, and I will certainly be looking for another one.  I think Kertesz does a fine job with the orchestra, but I find Decca's "operatic" style of applying corny effects to the voices to highlight the staging to be extremely crude and distracting.  In particular the silly effect of making the voices move from side to side for no reason, or suddenly becoming very reverberant and distant, and the next moment very close up and in-your-face adds nothing but distraction.  This seems especially inappropriate since it seems clear that the opera should be regarded more in the nature of a dream than dramatic, live action.   Beside from that, Berry's diction sounds just absurd at various points.  That said, the orchestra does sound fantastic and the music is fantastic.  But a final annoyance is that the notes to the the recording put forth Kertesz' very misogynistic interpretation of the opera, which just contributed more to the negative impression.

In any case, I'm looking for an alternate recording but it seems all the ones that interest me, Haitink, Dorati, Boulez, are out of print.   Perhaps I'll go for the Gergiev on LSO live (SACD).
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 02:54:05 PM by Scarpia »

Offline MDL

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2011, 02:26:01 PM »
I guess the thread is intended to focus on the work rather than recordings, but having listened to the work for the first time I have a few comments which would be most appropriate here.

This is the recording I listened to (Kertesz with Berry and Ludwig on Decca).



To sum up, I would say I think it is a great piece, but I find the recording very unpleasant, and I will certainly be looking for another one.  I think Kertesz does a fine job with the orchestra, but I find Decca's "operatic" style of applying corny effects to the voices to highlight the staging to be extremely crude and distracting.  In particular the silly effect of making the voices more from side to side for no reason, or suddenly becoming very reverberant and distant, and the next moment very close up and in-your-face adds nothing but distraction.  This seems especially inappropriate since it seems clear that the opera should be regarded more in the nature of a dream than dramatic, live action.   Beside from that, Berry's diction sounds just absurd at various points.  That said, the orchestra does sound fantastic and the music is fantastic.  But a final annoyance is that the notes to the the recording put forth Kertesz' very misogynistic interpretation of the opera, which just contributed more to the negative impression.

In any case, I'm looking for an alternate recording but it seems all the ones that interest me, Haitink, Dorati, Boulez, are out of print.   Perhaps I'll go for the Gergiev on LSO live (SACD).

Brilliant and insightful review. Although, perversely, you've made me even more eager to hear it.  ;D I love Decca's Strauss and Wagner recordings from this era. Was this another John Culshaw job? His contributions to the Solti recordings of Salome, Elektra and of course the Ring are amazing, and if he was involved in this recording, I'm sure that its pros outweigh its cons.

Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2011, 02:47:34 PM »
Brilliant and insightful review. Although, perversely, you've made me even more eager to hear it.  ;D I love Decca's Strauss and Wagner recordings from this era. Was this another John Culshaw job? His contributions to the Solti recordings of Salome, Elektra and of course the Ring are amazing, and if he was involved in this recording, I'm sure that its pros outweigh its cons.

Thanks.  But no, not a Culshaw production, but it applies his ideas of the "theater of the mind," rather clumsily in this instance, I thought.   In any case, it is a highly regarded recording, but not to my taste.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 02:52:16 PM by Scarpia »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2011, 07:17:27 PM »
I guess the thread is intended to focus on the work rather than recordings, but having listened to the work for the first time I have a few comments which would be most appropriate here.

This is the recording I listened to (Kertesz with Berry and Ludwig on Decca).



To sum up, I would say I think it is a great piece, but I find the recording very unpleasant, and I will certainly be looking for another one.  I think Kertesz does a fine job with the orchestra, but I find Decca's "operatic" style of applying corny effects to the voices to highlight the staging to be extremely crude and distracting.  In particular the silly effect of making the voices move from side to side for no reason, or suddenly becoming very reverberant and distant, and the next moment very close up and in-your-face adds nothing but distraction.  This seems especially inappropriate since it seems clear that the opera should be regarded more in the nature of a dream than dramatic, live action.   Beside from that, Berry's diction sounds just absurd at various points.  That said, the orchestra does sound fantastic and the music is fantastic.  But a final annoyance is that the notes to the the recording put forth Kertesz' very misogynistic interpretation of the opera, which just contributed more to the negative impression.

In any case, I'm looking for an alternate recording but it seems all the ones that interest me, Haitink, Dorati, Boulez, are out of print.   Perhaps I'll go for the Gergiev on LSO live (SACD).

This recording is regarded by many to be the definitive recording of this opera or at least to the many Bartok fans I've spoken with through the years. Taking your criticism into account, I think this recording deserves its high praise. There have been many more recordings of this opera made of course, but, for me, and for many others, the Kertesz remains the performance that all other performances are measured against. I think Bluebeard's Castle is one of the best sounding operas on record and what I mean by that is the opera works as well on disc as it does the stage.
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Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #39 on: January 29, 2011, 07:25:48 PM »
This recording is regarded by many to be the definitive recording of this opera or at least to the many Bartok fans I've spoken with through the years. Taking your criticism into account, I think this recording deserves its high praise. There have been many more recordings of this opera made of course, but, for me, and for many others, the Kertesz remains the performance that all other performances are measured against. I think Bluebeard's Castle is one of the best sounding operas on record and what I mean by that is the opera works as well on disc as it does the stage.

I will repeat my remark above, it is a highly regarded recording, but not to my taste.  My description of why I didn't enjoy it is mean't to allow people to decide for themselves whether they think they will like it, independent of my own preference (i.e., some people like the old Decca method of presenting opera in stereo recordings).

« Last Edit: January 29, 2011, 07:28:33 PM by Scarpia »