I have had this recording, on vinyl, for over 35 years. Needless to say it is not in the best of condition and, while I haven't scrapped it, I have added other versions to my collection. So far, however, this is still my favorite interpretation, though, as the opera gains in international recognition and as recordings multiply, I must admit there are some I have not yet heard.
The two reviews already posted here I find very well informed, well presented and insightful. It was a pleasure to read them. I can add little to what they say, but perhaps one tragedy has been overlooked: that of the Master at Arms, John Claggart. Of course he is the villain, a bully, a despot, a tyrant, in all a nasty piece of work; I don't want to excuse him, but his Iago-like monologue shows his hatred of himself just as it shows his hatred/envy/twisted feelings for Billy. This is presumably because of his suppresed homosexual desire for him, but perhaps envy for a happy good looking popular guy, something Claggart can never be. His choice to destory Billy is unforgiveable, and he pays the price, while Billy suffers through no fault of his own. What made Claggart so abusive?. Why is his successful career such a problem to him? Is his brutality (the novice) just his job? His is a sad story too. No excuses, but sad.
And does the music reflect that? The dark brass rumblings express the evil, but in the monologue? perhaps?