I have to confess to only having downloaded the Rienzi Overture and Parsifal extracts, as I've already got very satisfying recordings of the other tracks. However, as the other reviewer has stated, these two performances in particular are truly top class.
With the Rienzi Overture we have the Vienna Philharmonic under Karl Bohm. It is given a warm, robust and thrilling performance - everything you could want from this music really. In fact I found myself wanting to get up and dance towards the end...yes, I'm a bit crazy like that.
Now we come to Parsifal. This opera was the first Wagner work that I studied as a music student and it has always retained a special place for me. After hearing Haitink conduct it at Covent Garden, I was convinced that this is truly a work of genius. Anyway, enough reminiscing. Here we have one of the finest and most moving performances of the Prelude and Good Friday Music I have ever heard (and I've heard quite a few interpretations). The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Eugen Jochum play like gods. The Prelude has a luminosity and intensity which just blew me away. What I found interesting was that even though the trumpets came across a little bit too much at the climaxes I still found their phrasing incredibily moving. There is passion here as well as contemplation - not something you'd usually say about the Parsifal Prelude.
This wonderful balance of emotions continues into the Good Friday Music, which is both sensitive and passionate in equal measure - with some gorgeous playing in the woodwind. In fact every department of the orchestra gives of their best in this performance. There are no off-putting mannerisms or extreme, idiosyncratic decisions by Jochum. Instead we just have an amazing intelligent performance by top class musicians.
The Parsifal extracts were recorded in 1957 I believe, but the sound quality is absolutely stunning for its age - I couldn't believe it was that old.