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Wagner: Parsifal [Box set, Live, Original recording remastered]

George London Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Audio CD (11 Sep 2006)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set, Live, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B000FVHGZG
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,837 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Parsifal (44 Tracks On 3 Discs) - Richard Wagner

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECTLY CAPTURES THE UNIQUE BAYREUTH SOUND 8 Nov 2007
By Klingsor Tristan VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD
How do you pick among the apparently ever-growing list of Knappertsbusch readings of this opera from Bayreuth? Knappertsbusch practically owned the Grail Domain at Bayreuth through the 50s and the first half of the 60s. It was his favourite venue, where he could work, unseen by the audience, in his shirtsleeves under the unique Bayreuth hood that hid him from sight. Any or all of his performances (and more and more of them seem to pop up on disc all the time) are worth hearing.

This one from 1962 sits high on the list. There is a magnificent Gurnemanz from the great Hans Hotter, an impressive Amfortas from Thomas Stewart and a truly malign Klingsor from Neidlinger. Jess Thomas could be a very good actor on stage (I've never seen a Walther who looked more as though he was making up his Prize Song as he went along in Sachs's workshop in Act 3 of Meistersinger). The voice, though, could be a bit tight in its production for my taste. The weak link, and a crucial one, in this performance was Irene Dalis. She's just not a patch on the white-hot Marha Modl in Kna's 1951 performance.

Ah yes. There's the rub. That 1951 performance is something very special. Wagner did not call Parsifal an opera: he called it a Stage Dedication Play. And, at the festival that re-opened Bayreuth after the War, that's exactly what Kanppertsbusch gave us. Even slower speeds, even more intense concentration. And with a cast that always matches, often betters that of '62.

The one thing this recording does have over that older one is the sound, the most accurate representation you'll hear in your living room of the unique Bayreuth sound. And remember, this was the one piece that Wagner wrote with the experience of that sound in his mind. For that as well as for a great (though not the greatest) interpretation, this recording is well worth trying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This remains a classic performance 27 May 2014
By Ralph Moore TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Having just reviewed the live recording Knapperstbusch's last, 1964 Bayreuth performance. I wanted to return to this more celebrated version to test whether my reactions were the same as when I first listened to it so many years ago.

I find that I am now much more tolerant of things about it which once irked me: the intrusive coughing - which somewhat abates after the Prelude but nonetheless is a feature throughout - and the supposed obtrusiveness of Hotter's infamous wobble. I have to say that although I still maintain that Hotter was, surprisingly, in better voice two years later (for reasons I suggest in my review) he is by no means markedly inferior here and brings the same gravitas and spirituality to his assumption of Gurnemanz.

Others have complained about Knappertsbusch's leisurely tempo. Well, timings for 1964 and 1962 are virtually identical and compared with other famous accounts, Kna's is squarely in the middle: much slower than Krauss and Boulez and considerably faster than Levine or Karajan; I find his pacing ideal and have no quarrel with his grasp of the work's architecture.

In 1964, he has the possible advantage of Jon Vickers' debut as the eponymous hero but Jess Thomas here assumes one of his finest roles deploying his strong, clear tenor to marvellous effect - so nothing either way there. Surprisingly, Heinz Hagenau is the equal of Martti Talvela as Titurel and both Irene Dalis and Barbro Ericson are terrific as Kundry. Although George London's career was prematurely over by 1964, his replacement, Thomas Stewart, was no slouch as Amfortas and thus both singers take the palm for their strikingly vivid and beautiful singing as the suffering king. Finally, Gustav Neidlinger repeats his searing Klingsor.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive performance 30 Jan 2014
Format:MP3 Download|Verified Purchase
Whether you consider Parsifal to be pseudo-spiritual mumb0-jumbo with a nasty anti-semitic undercurrent or a profoundly moving spiritual reflection, the music is ethereal and hauntingly beautiful. Although this is an old recording it sounds both fresh and original and the sound quality is as superb as both the orchestral playing and the singing. I downloaded this on the strength of several recommendations and I can see why many consider this to be one of the top 'Parsifal' interpretations. Get this superb version of Wagner's final masterpiece!
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2 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing interpretation! 14 Jan 2011
Format:Audio CD
Amazing interpretation!

And I am extremely pleased with the service by Pridestuff! It took only a few days for the package to arrive, which happened well before schedule.

I highly recommend both this cd set as well as buying at Pridestuff.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest Parsifal ever recorded from Bayreuth 27 Jan 2007
By The Cultural Observer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Performance of Perhaps the Most Engimatic Art-Work 10 Jan 2007
By Ralph J. Steinberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best 9 Nov 2010
By Trout26 - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
There is little that I can add to the "scholarly" reviews that are already posted other than my complete agreement that this is hands-down the finest recording of Parsifal available. It was my "first" Parsifal on LP back in the 80s, and I have yet to hear one that I think is finer (and I think I've listened to most of them). The digitizing process has only improved the sound, and the sound is pure Bayreuth. When I want the video experience I turn to the Levine/Met recording, but if all I want is the audio, this is the ONLY version that I will listen to. Whether you are a newcomer to this work (as I was 30 years ago), or a collector (as I now am), this recording is an absolute MUST for your library!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This remains a classic performance 21 Dec 2013
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Having just reviewed the live recording Knapperstbusch's last, 1964 Bayreuth performance. I wanted to return to this more celebrated version to test whether my reactions were the same as when I first listened to it so many years ago.

I find that I am now much more tolerant of things about it which once irked me: the intrusive coughing - which somewhat abates after the Prelude but nonetheless is a feature throughout - and the supposed obtrusiveness of Hotter's infamous wobble. I have to say that although I still maintain that Hotter was, surprisingly, in better voice two years later (for reasons I suggest in my review) he is by no means markedly inferior here and brings the same gravitas and spirituality to his assumption of Gurnemanz.

Others have complained about Knappertsbusch's leisurely tempo. Well, timings for 1964 and 1962 are virtually identical and compared with other famous accounts, Kna's is squarely in the middle: much slower than Krauss and Boulez and considerably faster than Levine or Karajan; I find his pacing ideal and have no quarrel with his grasp of the work's architecture.

In 1964, he has the possible advantage of Jon Vickers' debut as the eponymous hero but Jess Thomas here assumes one of his finest roles deploying his strong, clear tenor to marvellous effect - so nothing either way there. Surprisingly, Heinz Hagenau is the equal of Martti Talvela as Titurel and both Irene Dalis and Barbro Ericson are terrific as Kundry. Although George London's career was prematurely over by 1964, his replacement, Thomas Stewart, was no slouch as Amfortas and thus both singers take the palm for their strikingly vivid and beautiful singing as the suffering king. Finally, Gustav Neidlinger repeats his searing Klingsor.

The one great advantage this Philips set has over the clean mono of the 1994 Orfeo recording is the benefit of stereo sound, allowing us to hear more atmospherically the great transition passages and the tolling of the bells summoning the knights to the ritual. Chorus and orchestra remain superb in both versions - presumably because, obviously, we are hearing the same conductor with the same forces - but Gundula Janowitz's heavenly soprano stands out from the group of Flower Maidens in 1962.

You will read the occasional review informing us that neither of these recordings is a patch on the renowned 1951 performance with which post-war Bayreuth re-opened. I don't buy it, myself, because I do not respond to Ludwig Weber's dull, wobbly Gurnemanz where others hear only perfection; de gustibus. Certainly London's portrayal of Amfortas has deepened in its anguished intensity ten years on and, again, the stereo sound in 1962 is far preferable.

For a modern performance, I still favour Karajan or, even better, Kubelik, but this one is also a mightily impressive, deeply moving account.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the one to have................... 8 Feb 2012
By Peter M. Rossetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Outstanding stereo Bayreuth sound.

No weak link in the cast.

Great conducting that brings out the spiritual qualities of this work.

Audience noise is minimal.

I've 5 Parsifals. all top recommended, my 2 favorites are this one and for a studio version Solti.

But if forced to choose just 1, it's this one. A true experience.
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