Béla Bartók wrote several lurid pieces during his early career, notably the one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle(1911, revised 1917). The work employs two singers, a bass as Bluebeard and a mezzo or dramatic soprano as his new wife Judith. She arrives at Bluebeard’s castle and demands to see what is behind seven locked doors. One room contains jewels, another a secret garden, another oozes blood, and behind the final door (from which there is no escape) she discovers Bluebeard’s former wives preserved in aspic. The symbolism is obvious: this is the unlocking of what we today call psychological baggage – although typically the baggage is all Bluebeard’s; Judith does not seem to have had a previous life.

Ormandy, Reissues Round-up Eugene Ormandy

The work has enjoyed famous recordings by husband-and-wife teams: Christa Ludwig with Walter Berry (Decca), and Julia Varady with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (DG). Sony’s 1960 stereo recording is notable for the sharp...