How to choose a Kna Parsifal?
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Old hands who are devoted to Knappertsbusch as the ultimate conductor of Parsifal, an opera he owned at Bayretuh after the war, will want any number of his performances. Newer listeners, intrigued by the legend, will feel bewildered by the fact that so many choices exist, however. For a long time there were only two "official" choices, i.e., LP sets made by major record labels. Collectors argued over which one waas better, the 1951 or the 1962. The former is in muzzy sound but features the absolute best in post-war Wagner singing. The 1962, in good stereo, has excellent singing but of a slightly lower caliber--in the case of Hans Hotter, who sings Gurnemantz on both sets, time had frayed his voice but left a profound portrayal intact.
The other Kna versions on CD derive from Radio Austria tapes, mostly pirated. Here we have a mono 1954 tape that is remarkably clear and full; it's fully the equal of the job Decca did in 1951 and in some ways is more listenable. So far as casting goes, Modl's Kundry and Windgassen's Parsifal first appear in 1951 and return repeatedly in later years. Both are fine, although I will never be fond of Windgassen's dry, unbeautiful voice. Kna's conducting is as slow and steady as ever, never excitable (or exciting--it's the long span of events that he had mastered). To my ears, he has the Bayreuth orchestra playing better than usual, which is a plus.
The biggest change is that Hotter takes on Amfortas while his usual role, Gurnemanz, is given to Josef Greindl. The difference in characterization is striking. Hotter's portrayal is detailed, varied, wise, and poignant. Greindl's is stern, often angry-sounding, and unvaried. He relies on his dark, rough voice (best suited for Hagen and Fafner) to carry the part rather than making much attempt at psychology. Which is not to say that Hotter will be preferable to everyone, since his timbre can be wooolly and wobbly. Both singers are authoritative, and Amfortas was also a prime role for Hotter.
I've only given a thumbnail sketch, but in the end this 1954 performance would be my third choice among Kna/bayareuth Parsifals. The first two are the 1951 classic and the very last one Kna conducted in 1964, which features Jon Vickers in his only recording of the title role, at which he is magnificent, far outstripping in vocal glory any post-war Parsifal since Melchior. This 1954 version makes it in third place instead of the 1962 because I am no fan of Jess Thomas's Parsifal, finding it vocally weak. But others call the 1962 a great recording. It's up to you.
In the end, I don't rate any Kna reading as high as the incomparable Karajan set on DG, an opinion that will infuriate Kna idolators."
This is the 1954 KNA recording
paul best | new orleans | 03/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fo details of this set go to Arkiv
also I just posted a short comment of both this great 1954 and 1952 recordinhs.
Both on Archipel.
So go to the Archipel 1952 Parsifal for comments.