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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (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
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive performance, 30 Jan 2014
P. Donovan "cultural jackdaw" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (MP3 Download)
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
This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (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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