It's a commonplace that Daniel Barenboim has done some of his best directing in Berlin, not Chicago, as this recording of Parsifal with the Berlin Phliharmonic attests. Wagner's score is fiendishly difficult--it's perhaps ... more »the composer's most delicate music--and Barenboim's decidedly intellectual temperament is complementary. The soloists (José van Dam, Siegfried Jerusalem, John Tomlinson, and Waltraud Meier) are superb. For me, Meier's startling, toneless gasp at the beginning of the third act--the first human sound after the ravishing orchestral introduction--is alone worth the price of this record. --Joshua Cody« less
It's a commonplace that Daniel Barenboim has done some of his best directing in Berlin, not Chicago, as this recording of Parsifal with the Berlin Phliharmonic attests. Wagner's score is fiendishly difficult--it's perhaps the composer's most delicate music--and Barenboim's decidedly intellectual temperament is complementary. The soloists (José van Dam, Siegfried Jerusalem, John Tomlinson, and Waltraud Meier) are superb. For me, Meier's startling, toneless gasp at the beginning of the third act--the first human sound after the ravishing orchestral introduction--is alone worth the price of this record. --Joshua Cody
"Of all the recordings of PARSIFAL available at the moment, this one (and any of Knappertsbusch's live Bayreuth performances) is probably the best. Daniel Barenboim conducts the Berlin Philharmonic expertly, and to these ears he has a better grasp of the music than Solti, Karajan, or especially Levine (whose recording should definitely be avoided unless one wants to hear Jessye Norman's excellent Kundry). Siegfried Jerusalem brings a good voice and considerable intelligence (how often can THAT be said?) to Parsifal, and is, along with Vickers, probably the best exponent of the role. Waltraud Meier is a hugely satisfying Kundry: this is one of her best performances vocally and she is always dramatically alive. José van Dam could sound a little more desperate as Amfortas but is vocally perfect, and John Tomlinson is excellent as Titurel. The only drawbacks to this recording are Matthias Hölle and Günter von Kannen (as Gurnemanz and Klingsor, respectively). Both give good performances, but neither has the vocal ammunition needed for this opera. Their deficiencies are not enough, however, to spoil the whole. If anything, get this recording to hear Meier and Jerusalem in Act II. Truly harrowing."
Very good indeed
Gerardo Cabrera Munoz | México | 03/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sure, Baremboim is no Knappterbusch, Krauss or Furtwangler, but as Wagner conductors come these days, he is very good indeed. His beautiful reading of Parsifal is well thought out, the marvelous Berliner Philharmoniker play as well gor him as they did for Karajan 20 years ago. Baremboim's cast has a great strength: the Kundry of Waltraud Meier, one of the finest ever recorded. Siegfried Jerusalem is good too and far preferable to many of his peers. Van Dam is a great Amfortas, but he was in fresher voice for Karajan. If you want a digital Parsifal you will have to choose between this and the Karajan set. Karajan's trump card is the formidable Gurnemanz of Kurt Moll, his tenor is just about the equal of Baremboim's, but his Kundry good as she is can't quite match the eroticism of Meier. The Karajan recording is early digital, the sound a little bit cool and analytical, the Baremboim is better recorded, more natural and warmer. Both are very collectable recordings."
The best digital Parsifal that I know.
Francisco Yanez Calvino | Santiago de Compostela, GALIZA, Spain. | 02/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wagner's interpretation has a lot of fans that are not very open-mind to new ways of performing the works of the great Richard. This affects conducting, playing and singing and those listeners use to be much more closed to a kind of performances that come from the XIXth Century tradition, having the climax in the figure of Hans Knappertsbusch.
This is clearly a Parsifal in a different line, a modern version of a piece that can be played, of course, in different ways and not only in the very mystical Kna did. This Barenboim's performance is deep, very Germanic and perfect from the technical point of view, as it was his Tristan und Isolde, released by Teldec too and which is, together with this Parsifal one of the best recordings Barenboim did in his years with Berlin. Daniel Barenboim is, in my opinion the greatest Wagnerian conductor in our days, as his cycle of Wagner's works for Teldec shows, or as you can watch and listen in his just released DVD with the Walküre.
The orchestra is a glory made sound, and you remember it's the BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER, not the Staatsoper, like other reviewers wrote. In my opinion the German orchestra is the finest in the world, so you can imagine how great is them playing in this CD, in a moment of great shape under a baton they know very well. I simply can not imagine a performance like this in a live recording, so the miracle made sound is clear, with all the dynamics, tones, tempi... perfectly described.
The voices are really great, despite all those who can listen only the old recordings, Wagner allows everything and this is a marvellous way of singing the main roles, like Jerusalem or van Dam shows. About Waltrud Meier I can only say that her Kundry is the best I know, as she was too the best Isolde I know. The rest of the cast is very good and very well balanced, with deep and technical voices very well chosen for the kind of interpretation Barenboim does.
As I wrote some lines above, a performance of Parsifal is just a part of the different possibilities the works offer, so if you want to know it well you will need to listen some other performances, especially Knappertsbusch (Teldec and Philips, in my opinion) and Solti (Decca), mainly. Karajan is quite good, but because of the orchestra, but anyway I prefer Berlin in this recording. Levine.... The best thing you can do is to forget Levine conducting Wagner, except for the voices, his conducting is really poor.
The recording is very good, digital, something very important in this work in which the pianissimos has a very important role in creating the different atmospheres required. The balance between voices and orchestra is perfect and it's recorded like if it was a concert, so you can listen the singers moving on the stage through your loudspeakers. The libretto is very, very good too.
One of the better Parsifal and technically the best one. "
Very good, but Kna is still the first choice
Ryan Morris | Chicago, IL | 09/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I feel this Parsifal, along with Kubeliks, are the two finest since KNA's(62, 511, 54, 56). I actually prefer Siegfried Jerusalem to Jess Thomas(KNA 62)-his voice was still at its peak-velvety, powerful, tender, and under complete control. The Gurnemanz, though not near Hotter, Griendl, or Moll(Kubelik), is also good, though at times his voice is somewhat commonplace. Picking apart the performance is ridiculous compared to the overall feeling that this is truly a special performance. Those who have heard Barenboims Ring know to expect great things. For seasoned Wagnerites, this is a marvelous and authentic, though worlds different, from KNA's sensational phillips recording and his various 50'2 Bayreuths. Among modern versions, I would recommend this as a must have along with Kubelik, Solti, and Karajan, along with Horst Stein on DVD and for a modernized though musically incredible Kent nagano(Matti Salmninen as Gurnemanz(!!!) Thomas Hampson as Amfortas(I prefer him to Weikl even) and Meiers best Kundry. Alas, as another reviewer mentioned, the only real problem, and it is somewhat significant, is the volume oscillation. For most of the first act I had to turn up the volume almost eight numbers higher than I normally listen to and then during the transformation and act II had to then turn it down-only to have to turn it up again in act three. Of course I know this often happens with due to the complex process of recording a work of this kind, but it is worse than most encounters I have had with similar problems and was distracting when attempting to allow oneself to sink(meditate) into the music. Dont discount this version though or not buy it because of that. It is well worth hearing- and in the case of Siegfried Jerusalem-you will never encounter a finer Parsifal interp."