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Wagner: Parsifal
Richard [Classical] Wagner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Wagner: Parsifal
Genre: Classical
"Knappertsbusch's expansive and dedicated 1962 reading is caught superbly in the Philips set, arguably the finest live recording ever made in the Festspeilhaus at Bayreuth, with outstanding singing from Jess Thomas as Par...  more »


CD Details

All Artists: Richard [Classical] Wagner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Anja Silja, Dorothea Siebert, Else-Margrete Gardelli, Georg Paskuda, George London, Gerd Nienstedt, Gerhard Stolze, Gundula Janowitz, Gustav Neidlinger, Hans Hotter, Irene Dalis, Jess Thomas, Martti Talvela, Niels Moller, Rita Bartos, Sona Cervena, Ursula Boese
Title: Wagner: Parsifal
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Philips
Original Release Date: 1/1/1962
Re-Release Date: 11/14/2006
Album Type: Original recording remastered
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaCD Credits: 4
UPC: 028947577850


Album Description
"Knappertsbusch's expansive and dedicated 1962 reading is caught superbly in the Philips set, arguably the finest live recording ever made in the Festspeilhaus at Bayreuth, with outstanding singing from Jess Thomas as Parsifal and Hans Hotter as Gurnemanz...its spiritual quality and the sound has undoubtedly been further enhanced in the remastering for CD."--The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs "This is not merely one of Philips's Great Recordings but also one of the greatest sets of all time. Every time one returns to it, its inspiration and distinction seem to have been enhanced, its all-enveloping eloquence the more evident. Its overriding advantage over all other recordings of the work is Knappertsbusch's masterly traversal of the score, even more aware of dramatic impetus, long line and Wagnerian import...There have been much-admired Parsifals in more recent times but none of these studio-made sets quite catches the immediacy and inevitability of this moving and elevated version, now sounding freshened in its remastered form. At mid-price, a very special experience is in store for any newcomer to the work."--Gramophone Cast GEORGE LONDON Amfortas MARTTI TALVELA Titurel HANS HOTTER Gurnemanz JESS THOMAS Parsifal GUSTAV NEIDLINGER Klingsor IRENE DALIS Kundry Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele Hans Knappertsbusch, conductor

CD Reviews

The greatest Parsifal ever recorded from Bayreuth
The Cultural Observer | 01/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In my opinion, a true Parsifal can only be realized in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, given the fact that Wagner wrote the opera with his theater's acoustics in mind. Wagner's architecture allows the music to resound magically from the sunken orchestra pit, and this allows Parsifal's beautiful score to come to full bloom. Despite the wonderful studio recordings that one can buy in the market (such as Karajan's magical Berlin recording, Kubelik's magnificent Bavarian recording, and Solti's acclaimed Vienna production), Bayreuth Parsifals have always been more exciting. The conductor in this recording is Hans Knappertsbusch, a maestro who keeps with the holy traditions of the grail-infused score and gives the music a breadth, gravity, and clarity absent from most new conductors. His most famous recording from Bayreuth was a 1951 recording with Martha Mödl, Wolfgang Windgassen, George London, and Ludwig Weber. I think that is one of the most inspired Parsifals ever committed to disc. This recording, made eleven years later, is just as inspired and beautiful as the 1951 account, with better sound, a more magnificent cast, and in ways, much better judged tempi than the glacial 1951 recording.

In my opinion, the crowning glory of this set in Hans Hotter's Gurnemanz. Full of gravitas and wisdom, despite what people say about his voice, Hotter is my favorite Gurnemanz. His large, commanding, godlike sound is perfect for the role of the warrior-knight who keeps the traditions of the grail, and his third act is perhaps the best on disc. His qualities as a lieder singer allow the sensitivities of Wagner's complex text to emerge, and I would say that despite the fact that other Parsifals with him are better (1964, same theater, same conductor, but with Jon Vickers! as Parsifal), this recording captured him in the best conditions.

The Parsifal in this recording is Jess Thomas, who is perhaps the most youthful and beautiful heldentenor voice ever to take the part. I find that his intelligence in his interpretation, while nowhere near as grand as Vickers, is a merit to this recording. He has the most beautiful voice for the redeeming fool. He is partnered by the Kundry of Irene Dalis. My favorite Kundry is Gwyneth Jones, who in her prime recorded Parsifal with James King, Thomas Stewart, and Franz Crass, and if she were the Kundry in this recording, I would definitely throw heaps of money on this for being the best recording ever. Irene Dalis does a good job of Kundry nonetheless, and has the perfect balance of seduction and demonic ferocity to make the role credible.

Amfortas is sung by the aging George London, who in a few years, would forever lose his magnificent voice. Here, he repeats his marvelous performance from 1951, and while the voice is less than fresh, his interpretation has undoubtedly grown in depth and intensity. A reference Amfortas for any generation. The direction by Wieland Wagner is inspiring, and is perhaps the reason why this Parsifal is such a benchmark performance."
A Masterful Performance of Perhaps the Most Engimatic Art-Wo
Ralph J. Steinberg | New York, NY United States | 01/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Parsifal is undoubtedly the most problematic of Wagner's works. Not in terms of performance demands, for the vocal parts are remarkably undemanding, certainly when compared to Tristan or the Ring, and the orchestral passages rarely rise to greater than mezzo-forte. The problem lies in decerning what Wagner really intended to say in this final work. Some see it as an expression of christian faith, others a glorification of celebacy and denigration of sexual love, and still others, such as Robert Gutmann, see in it the ultimate expression of Wagner's anti-Jewish feelings and the need for the Aryan Race to be regenerated through the blood of Christ. In all likelihood, all of these viewpoints have validity, as such a morally ambiguous work is like a Rorschach Inkblot Test, an ambiguous stimulus that can provoke any number of interpretations. There is indeed a dream-like quality to this work, in which Wagner amazingly anticipates, or perhaps initiates, musical impressionism.
This live performance from the 1962 Bayreuth Festival, led by Knappertsbusch, perfectly captures the misty, flickering, impressionistic light of the work. Kna, as is well known, was highly unpredictable in performance, at times sublime, at other times plodding and careless. This is one of his sublime moments, as great as his 1951 "Goetterdaemmerung." So great is his grasp of the music that there is not one passage that sounds like a longeur, but rather, that this drama moves by swiftly and with purpose at every point. Comparison with his 1951 version reveals swifter pacing in this performance, but as we all know, speed itself does not necessarily guarantee tautness. It is more a matter of maintaining tension, and Kna does this better than any other "Parsifal" conductor in this listener's experience. The cast is perfect at every point. Highilghts include Hotter's warm, committed Gurnemanz, sung with Lieder-like sensititivy and rock-steady tone; Neidlinger's commanding and frightening Klingsor (slso expressed with bitterness over his unjust rejection by the Grail Knights, one of the great moral ambiguities of the work); Thomas' gloriously-sung Parsifal (properly one-dimensional, as this character is really a "Tor" (fool), or more properly a "Trottel" (imbecile)); Dalis's tortured and yet seductive Kundry; and the tortured Amfortas of London, even more impressive than in the earlier Knappertsbusch recording. The chorus is the greatest in the world, and the Bayreuth Orchestra sounds like the equal of any orchestra, operatic or symphonic. The recorded sound is amazingly lifelike and shows why the Festspielhaus is the greatest opera house in the world. Once again, BAYREUTH RULES!"
KNA\Parsifal-the one to get
Ryan Morris | Chicago, IL | 09/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Alright, first things first, this is the Parisal to get. Kubelik, Barenboim, Solti, and even Karajan are all good, but this is sublime. It is in Bayreuth-which is important due to the fact that Wagner intentionally cultured the score to the Bayreuth acoustics which creates that aural, pulsing, "Parsifal Sound"-just listen to the opening minutes of any version in Bayreuth and you will hear what I am talking about. Most people who love this opera as I do argue about which is the best. It is funny, however, that the arguement usually is not whether or not Kna's is the best, but which one. His slower(though no deeper) 51 account with Ludwig Weber, Martha Modl, and Windgassen replacing Hans Hotter, Irene Dantris, and Jess Thomas.
Personally, I feel that the 1954 is the best Parsifal vocally, though in mono, and this 1962 is the best orchestrally-or the true cuilmination of KNAs growth with the score-though there is a soon to be released 64 account which is also excellent.
Hans Hotter was late in his career here, and by his Solti Die Walkure well past his prime. But here, he is transcendent. Surely the greatest Gurnemanz that I have ever heard(beside Griendl\54-KNA) and really the true swan song of this great singer. The third act alone is one of the greatest moments I have encountered on any recording. George London is also only years away from his vocal apocolypse, and again, I would judge this as his swan song. You will never hear a more impassioned, tender, and suffering Amfortas entrance-when he sings about the beauty of the morning-again, sublime is the only word that comes to mind. The Kundry is fine, not the greatest ever, but never do I want for more or feel this roll is underplayed-it is just simply not the best ever. Jess THomas is also a voice of much debate. His performance here is quite remarkable-I personally feel he abandoned some of the mannerisms present in his Kempe\Lohengrin portrayal. But I actually prefer Barenboims Jerusalem-I feel it is the best I have heard though I know that will cause quite an uproar.
Finally-as far as conducting goes you will never hear from a conductor who knows more about the score. Kna knew it inside and out-there are recorded versions from 51,52,54,56, all of which are remarkable. For the true enthusiast it is an informative journey through the metamorphasis of each interpretation. It begins with slow, almost glacier tempos and hugely difficult lines to a quicker more direct approach that gains in its profundity. ALL CONDUCTORS AND MUSIC LOVERS NEED TO LEARN THAT SLOWER DOES NOT MEAN DEEPER. This is essential to the success of Parsifal-just listen to Levines two accounts-both of which are uninspired, boring, and without that subjective mysticism that KNA instills. Levine is an example of how to do this opera wrong. Barenboim is a great example of the page turner approach. His is an exciting, beautifully recorded account with some of the most intense moments you will experience in this opera(transformation music and third act.) KNA combines the best aspects-intensity with a sense of pace(both slow and fast) that, when finished, leaves you emotionally riveted. This is not only the best Parsifal, but also my favourite recording, deserving of the same acclaim as Furtwangler's trisolde.
To sum, for those new and seasoned wagnerites, this is a must. Newbies must hear this. There is no more authoritative version available. For seasoned wagnerites, I assume you have this otherwise you are not a seasoned wagnerite and you will also be familiar with thhe 51 teldec. To that I add you must acquire the 1954 Bayreuth\KNA. It is hands down vocally the finest I have ever heard and musically a wonderful mixture of the 60's and 50's kna.
Below is a cast comparison of the KNA(Bayreuth)|barenboim(BPO)\solti(VPO)\karjan(BPO)\kubelik(bavarian)\stein(bayreuth)\nagano(Dresden)

There will be an asterik next to my favuorite performance
KNA51\52-Weber 54-Griendl* 56-Griendl 62-Hotter Solti-G.Frick Karajan\Kubelik\Levine-Moll Nagano-Salimnen Stein-Sotin Barenboim-M.Holle Boulez-Crass

51\52-London 54-Hotter 56-Dieskau 62-London* Solti- Dieskau Barenboim\Karajan-Van Dam
Kubelik\Barenboim\Stein-Weikl Nagano-Thomas Hampson Levine-James Morris Boulez-T.Stewart

Kundry-51\52\54\56-Modl 62-Irene dantris Solti-C.Ludwig Barenboim\Nagano-Meier
Kubelik-Y.Minton Stein-Eva Randova Levine-Jesse Norman* Karajan-Dunja vejnovic

KNA\51\51\54\62Niedlinger* Solti-Zoltan Keleman Karajan-Siegmunde Nimsgerm Levine\Kubelik-F.Mazura Stein-Roar Barenboim- Von Kannen Boulez-D.Macintyre

Solti-Hotter* Karajan-Victor van Halem Kubelik-Salimnen Barenboim-tomlinson

KNA51\52\54\56-Windgassen * KNA62-Jess Thomas Solti-Kollo Kubelik\Boulez-James King
nagano-Christopher Ventris
karajan-Peter Hofmann Barenboim\Stein-Siegfried Jerusalem*