Parsifal, opera, WWV 111: Act 3. Nur eine Waffe taugt:
Compared to Knappertsbusch's stodgy, lethargic Bayreuth Parsifals from the 50s, this 1964 performance, Knappertsbusch's last, is quite different. Textures have lightened, tempos are faster, and Wagner's long arcs soar in... more »stead of sag. These qualities characterize Knappertsbusch's "official" 1962 Philips Parsifal, but 1964 has a better cast. Hotter relishes Gurnemanz's long, inward monologues, while, by contrast, Vickers projects the title role with wound-up intensity. Thomas Stewart's Amfortas bears his tortured burden with more dignity than usual, and the unsung (no pun intended) Barbro Ericson is as complete, complex, and affecting a Kundry as one can get. If you've been hankering for a Knappertsbusch parsifal, this is the one. Fine mono broadcast sound, but no texts. --Jed Distler« less
Compared to Knappertsbusch's stodgy, lethargic Bayreuth Parsifals from the 50s, this 1964 performance, Knappertsbusch's last, is quite different. Textures have lightened, tempos are faster, and Wagner's long arcs soar instead of sag. These qualities characterize Knappertsbusch's "official" 1962 Philips Parsifal, but 1964 has a better cast. Hotter relishes Gurnemanz's long, inward monologues, while, by contrast, Vickers projects the title role with wound-up intensity. Thomas Stewart's Amfortas bears his tortured burden with more dignity than usual, and the unsung (no pun intended) Barbro Ericson is as complete, complex, and affecting a Kundry as one can get. If you've been hankering for a Knappertsbusch parsifal, this is the one. Fine mono broadcast sound, but no texts. --Jed Distler
A good recording...GREAT performance!
Jim Player | Rochester, NY, USA | 07/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance, Knappertbusch's last operatic performance, is a real treat! Kna conducts with his usual perfect pacing and grandeur, and the sound is very good...too bad it's in mono as opposed to the marvelous Philips recording two years earlier. Hotter sings well, although his voice is considerably darker and thicker than in '62. Thomas Stewart also sings well, although I couldn't get over the impression that this was a young singer near the beginning of his career. Barbro Ericson seems a bit heavy and unyielding as Kundry. Standing head and shoulders above all and placing himself on equal terms with Kna is Jon Vickers. His Parsifal is simply one of the most earth shattering portrayals of the role on record. His Act 2 transformation, from naïve and "pure fool" to Redeemer of the Holy Grail is amazing. Here, finally, is a Parsifal who suffers, agonizes and emerges in sublime triumph over temptation. His Act 3 narrative, "Zu ihm, des tiefe Klangen" is riveting. The 1962 Philips is the better recording...glorious sound, more consistent performances throughout the entire cast, but Kna and Vickers together are so profound, so authoritative that this recording is a definite "must-have"."
A MUST for Vickers fans
Paul L. McKaskle | 08/21/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is Vickers' night. I don't mean to knock the rest of the cast and yes, it was KNA's last performance at Bayreuth, but Vickers makes this a unique experience. Hotter, Neidlinger, KNA and his troupe of flowermaidens, are as usual--this recording sounds like several others as far as they are concerned. Thomas Stewart's performance was workman-like but unremarkable. Vickers is, well, Vickers. The master of the gradual climax, gigantic and fully supported in all registers, recognizably free with his vibrato and glissando, a little grainy at times, passionate and introspective. I seem to recall reading somewhere that he objected to the role for religious reasons but I can't confirm this. (If you know anything about it, please write me.) In any case, he sounds as if he'd been thinking carefully about the role for a long time. Also thought-provoking, strong and well-centered in her role was Barbara Erikson.There's some static in the printing. But I keep coming back to this performance."
Paul L. McKaskle | Berkeley, California | 09/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though from a live performance at Bayreuth in 1964, this is a superb recording of Parsifal. Jon Vickers (in my book, the greatest tenor of the 20th century) is outstanding in the title role and Hans Hotter is equally outstanding as Gurnemanz. The rest of the cast is very good and Knappertsbusch, conducting his last opera performance, does a superb job. The sound is much better than I have heard on many other "live" recordings--clear, even though monaural. The balance between the orchestra and singers is good. There is little or no audience noise--none at the end, whether it was because of audience respect for the performance or a re-recording of this bit, I cannot tell. (Only once have I experienced an entire audience remaining completely silent until the last note has died away--a Gotterdammerung in San Francisco in the 1970s. Perhaps this Bayreuth audience was equally respectful.) The only problem is the lack of a libretto--minor unless one has no other recording of Parsifal. This is an A+ performance, and I am absolutely delighted with it."
An Apostate redeemed
Matthew M. Smircina | Virginia Beach, VA United States | 05/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For a long time, I had a lot of trouble with this opera-it always seemed long , drawn out. This performance changed the way I viewed Parsifal. This performance is involving, at times thrilling, and never, repeat, never dull. All the performers seem to be on an "on" night, from Knappertsbusch himself, right down to the last grail Knight. Being a live performance only seems to push everyone to do better. Vickers and Knappertsbusch seem to consistently breath as one, and the result is , well, just WOW. Maybe not a newcomers first choice because of the live performance in (outstanding) mono sound, but for the rest of us who are nutbars about Wagner, this is one to seriously consider"
The Sublime Summation of the Mystical Marriage
L. Lubin | NY, NY | 07/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On the deepest mystical level, "Parsifal" is about the synthesis of opposites, the masculine archetype of the spear reunited with its femminine counterpart, the Grail. That hieratic marriage is mirrored in the partnership of the opera with Hans Knapperstbusch, a continuous evolution of a lifetime, culminating in this performance, his last of any opera. It is a miracle of understanding, spontaneity, and execution. It is, however, not perfect.
Hans Hotter was perhaps the perfect Gurnemanz, but here far past his prime. In the 1st act, at "Der Heilthum bautet er das Heiligtum," one of the most difficult pages in the score, he becomes noticably out of breath. And at places in the 3rd act he becomes out of synch with the orchestra, probably due to Kna's sudden change of tempo. In spite of that he delivers a deeply felt performance.
Jon Vickers' traversal of the Hero's Path is the other chief glory of this performance. He is fresh of voice and in complete sympathy with the character. As this is his only commercially available performance of the opera, it is an invaluable document, not only of his interpretation of the role, but as a blueprint of what the role SHOULD be. Only James King (who had a degree in psychology) comes close to finding the inner life of this role, and the sheer glamour of his opulent voice distracts from the details. (I saw Vickers sing Parsifal at the Met in '79, with a dream cast of Ludwig, Talvela, and Weikl. Unfortunately, that was Levine's first attempt at the score, and it showed. But many of the details were the same as in '64, although Vickers' tone had become rather drier.) Listen to the last phrase of the final scene, how he sustains the last note of "oeffnet dem Schrein!" for the full measure but diminuendoes until the note evaporates into the orchestral sound. King does nearly the same thing here, but over the space of the written quarter-note only. Vickers innate sense of what is right melds fluidly with Kna's instinct for tone color. From his impetuosity at the 1st act entrance through the growing realization of his transgression; from Act II's gregarious party boy through the sudden attainment of spiritual awareness and authority; to the ultimate resolution of the spiritual crisis of Act III and the acceptance and fulfilment of his mission, Vickers knows exactly where he is and where he is going. Only his german diction shows some weakness at this early stage of his career, although it is a good deal better than Domingo's later became.
Barbro Ericson is not nearly in the same league, but she is thoroughly committed to the part. She is a bit thick-voiced and blowzy for the ideal 2nd act Kundry, and her pitch occasionally sags a very little bit. But she is intense and not at all unattractive.
Thomas Stewart is absolutely mesmerizing in his communication of Amfortas's agony, and his weary compassion, tinged with condescension, towards Kundry in the 1st scene strikes a realistic balance. It is beyond my comprehension that so many listeners who have reviewed this recording are unable to hear this. I find this performance almost unbearable in its intensity, overwhelming in the 3rd act derangement. Stewart's recorded legacy is all to small. perhaps because only a live performance, heard and viewed, can do his artistry justice. He was the Amfortas at my first trip to the Met, at age 15, along with Sandor Konya, Irene Dalis, and Cesare Siepi, a day I'll never forget.
Gustav Neidlinger, most famous as Solti's Alberich, had the perfect voice for any villain part he might have sung. Unfortunately, he seems to be coasting on that sound; there is no attempt at any kind of nuance, and he disregards Wagner's dynamics entirely. Still, as an embodiment of pure malevolence, he makes a great and unrighteous noise.
The small parts are all fine, the usual Bayreuth standard. The orchestra is particularly good. Did they perhaps know that this would be the last time Kna would stand in that Holy Shrine with a baton in his hand? Did Kna somehow know tht this would be his last performance? There is a rare magic in this performance, particularly in the 3rd act, which is one seamless, architecturally perfect arch of sound. There is a rare sense of violence in the Tranformation music, etching the spiritual malaise of the knighthood indelibly into the ear.
I bought this set years ago on the now defunct Arkadia label. with some added bonus tracks of Kna in Hamburg with Christa Ludwig in 1963, where her Liebestod defines the operatic use of 'demented.' The sound is quite listenable, with the Trannsformation music especially vivd. The Grail Temple bells are a especially well recorded, swelling to nearly intolerable volume, testing the speakers, and dying away. This might not be the best introduction to this opera for anyone raised exclusively on modern studio recordings, but for those of us accustomed to vintage audio and pirated live material, it is more than adequate. As a performance, in can never be equalled or surpassed. Of the thirteen recordings I own (a few are private broadcast tapes) this is the one I would least like to lose."