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CD Review

Béla Bartók

Duke Bluebeard's Castle, Op. 11 (Sz. 48)

  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Duke Bluebeard
  • Irmgard Seefried, Judith
Swiss Festival Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik
Recorded live at the Lucerne Festival, 15 August 1962
Audite 95.626
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This is a curious performance sung in German by some of the finest singers and performers of the age. Kubelik was one of the great conductors, and his performances of Bartók span his career on disc and in concert. They are all excellent. Audite has been releasing rare and noteworthy Lucerne recordings for some time now, and this series is – in my mind – one of the most important historical projects on the market right now.

In Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, we find the singer at his peak. In 1962, he was still in excellent voice; expressive, intelligent, and beautifully meaningful. Sure, he has his weaknesses, but even his occasional forcefulness with the text brings a real humanity to the role. Walter Berry is my – and many other critics' choice – for Bluebeard, but this is valuable all the same. Irmgard Seefried lacks her co-star's name recognition, but she too is totally committed. The live conditions bother neither singer, they soar effortlessly and without strain over the Swiss Festival Orchestra.

Kubelik leads thrillingly, with the kind of electricity that we've come to expect from his live performances. Like nearly everything that Audite has released devoted to the conductor, this reading significantly enhances our understanding of Kubelik the artist. The orchestra plays well, without any truly world-class moments. But this is less about how they play and more about how they are conducted. The decent 1962 sound similarly wins no awards but gives us everything we need to hear.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman