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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Parsifal that time forgot-well I did anyway-and if you are open to a highly individual view, you need not hesitate!
For reasons inexplicable to a Wagner "old lag" like me, this reissued set has slipped under my radar until now.
Recorded in 1978 in the Great hall of Leipzig Radio (actually a former church!) the set has been reissued by Berlin Classics in 2008 in its new re-mastering, with really sumptuous packaging in a faux leather folio cover. The whole work, uncut, is on 3 CDs...
Published 14 months ago by D. S. CROWE

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Clipped" Tracks
Caveat Emptor - most of these tracks are 'clipped'; and carried on to the start of the next tracks. This causes seemingly "drop-outs" on the tracks and really is not acceptable
Published on 16 Feb 2011 by Mr. C. Westwood


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Parsifal that time forgot-well I did anyway-and if you are open to a highly individual view, you need not hesitate!, 7 Oct 2013
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Parsifal (Kegel, Kollo) (Audio CD)
For reasons inexplicable to a Wagner "old lag" like me, this reissued set has slipped under my radar until now.
Recorded in 1978 in the Great hall of Leipzig Radio (actually a former church!) the set has been reissued by Berlin Classics in 2008 in its new re-mastering, with really sumptuous packaging in a faux leather folio cover. The whole work, uncut, is on 3 CDs only as opposed to the usual 4, and this will immediately give an indication that the reading is a swift one.
The recent scholarly " Gesamtausgabe", or " guide to performing" reveals that over the decades performance style has become much slower than Wagner envisualised or intended particularly with regard to the Ring and Parsifal, and in a sense the swift approach of Boulez and Kegel can be deemed to have the air of authenticity.
Of course, it becomes difficult to invoke the spirituality of the work at these tempos, but we would do well to remember that the so-called spiritual elements are complete artifice-humbug if you like!
Wagner was a staunch atheist, and such religious background as he had in his youth was Lutheran, far removed from the Catholic rituals of Parsifal.
Furthermore, the whole Grail saga was a piece of hokum never intended by Chretien de Troyes or Wolfram von Eschenbach to be anything other than a rattling good yarn, but such were the times that it was prudent to couch any writings-or even thoughts-in the most orthodox religious terms or all too easily the author could find not just his tall tale but himself being stretched, leading to the worrying smell of burning firewood arranged around the tootsies!
By Wagner's time, long before the turgid prose of Dan Brown was inflicted on a gullible public, the whole Grail Saga had become subsumed into the religious consciousness of the Catholic Church, and Wagner exploited this in his usual ruthless and cynical manner.
Bayreuth is in the heartland of Catholic South Bavaria, and Wagner was viewed with suspicion by Church and authorities alike -as an exploiter of King Ludwig's largesse, and as a challenger of Catholic Orthodoxy particularly in The Ring and the earlier Tannhauser (was that a dig at The Pope?).
Not only was he suspected of atheism, but worse- of being a Lutheran!
Wagner, seeking to secure the future of Bayreuth and thus his legacy, rode over these suspicions by composing a quasi-religious epic that incorporated definitely Catholic ritual and had more than a subtle whiff of anti-Semitism for those who chose to see it as such-meat and drink to both Church and authorities!
The point of all this is that it is perfectly legitimate to take a more red-blooded operatic approach to this work, treating the religious symbolism in the same way as the Nordic legends of the Ring, and under the regime of the then DDR, there was really no alternative. This does not in any way invalidate Herbert Kegel's swift but beautifully shaped account of this endlessly fascinating work, and in this recording I find it totally convincing.
The recording was made live with an audience as a concert performance, and the sound is rich and transparent. The Leipzig Radio Orchestra (now the MDR Symphony Orchestra) covers itself in glory, with resplendent brass, lustrous rich string tone and plangent woodwinds, and recorded in what is essentially a resonant Church acoustic, the voices too have plenty of air around them and are very well balanced, as are the various superb choruses. The overall sound is breathtakingly beautiful.
The cast is excellent-there are no weak links. Kollo is a little rougher of tone than he was for Solti, and there is a hint of tiredness by "Nur eine waffe taugt..", but he is a fine Parsifal, far better than Peter Hofmann 3 years later for Karajan. Ulrich Cold is a lighter voiced Gurnemanz than some with a vocal quality reminiscent of Karl Ridderbusch and like him he has a secure voiced delivery that is a pleasure to listen to. He may lack the greatness of Moll, particularly for Kubelik, but he is a fine exponent of the role. Gisela Schröter, well known from many Dresden recordings, is a superb Kundry-her scream in Act 2 with Kingsor is blood-curdling-and she has a fine rich voice with just a hint of vibrato and she handles the scope of the role from tortured visionary through seductress to penitent with absolute conviction. The Klingsor is terrific, but rather surprising is the excellence of Theo Adam's Amfortas.Of course, no opera could be recorded in the DDR without Theo Adam, whether miscast or not, but in this case the casting is fortuitous.
He starts somewhat wobbly-this was live and the voice was " cold", but he quickly gains control and delivers an impassioned, highly dramatic rendition that rivals the best (London, van Dam) and is better than Weikl for Kubelik.
The remaining cast and various choral groups are superb, and only the bells disappoint a little, but then certainly convey the impression of a theatre performance.
The conducting of Herbert Kegel will be for some just too fast-but unlike Boulez (who is overall SLOWER!), he shapes each passage beautifully, knows when to ease back to allow dramatic emphasis, and there are no sudden switches of tempo such as Boulez indulges in during his all too " enfant terrible" Bayreuth recording, beautiful though much of it is.
Kegel was not a regular Wagner conductor-he was far more renowned as an interpreter of contemporary music (though he has the distinction of being the conductor of the first Digital Beethoven Symphony set released in the UK, on Capriccio)-but the rather pretentious booklet notes, reprinted from the original set, explain that he was taken by Adorno's view that Parsifal was a work that looked to the future and was not bound in the past.
His fresh, bright and highly dramatic approach clothes this work in sensuality rather than spirituality, and if that appeals, do not hesitate to acquire this excellent set.
If you are inured to the readings of Knappertsbusch (his 1964 Mono performance for me!), Karajan and Kubelik-wondrous all-then this may come as a shock and a step too far .
This performance goes further than Solti, Gergiev and even Boulez in driving the drama forward in a thrusting and exciting manner, and while it is not how I always want to hear it, I absolutely love this performance and as recording, vocal and orchestral performances are absolutely first rate, I have no hesitation in awarding it 5 Stars. Stewart Crowe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The antidote to Levine in 1985, 14 Feb 2014
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Parsifal (Kegel, Kollo) (Audio CD)
A "Parsifal" which is thirty-five years old and recorded in the old East Germany with a cast and conductor nowhere near as starry as rival versions - can this really be worth considering as a first choice? Perhaps not, especially when pitted against the majesty and might of established classic versions by Knappertsbusch, Karajan and Kubelik but I am convinced that any devotee of Wagner's last masterpiece will want to hear and own it, as it offers a true "Gesamtkunstwerk" with an unrivalled sense of unity and purpose, unified by the vision of a conductor prepared to eschew the increasingly "spiritual" approach and look instead for the dramatic thrust "Parsifal" can generate when unhampered by a quasi-religious reverence.

That is not to say that this account is rushed or perfunctory; the important dialogues such as that between Parsifal and Kundry are given proper weight and it is mainly the choral and orchestral "liturgical" passages which are given greater spring and impetus. Hence the whole performance takes a mere three hours and forty minutes - the shortest on record. This was a live concert, so there are a few coughs and the minor irritation of a conductor who sings along with the Flower Maidens; otherwise this is sonically superb for its date. Furthermore, it is sumptuously packaged on only three CDs with very full notes, history, synopsis, biographies, photos and a German libretto in a faux-leather slip-case, all for under £15.

Of course, none of this would be of any account if the singing and playing were sub-standard. However, the Leipzig Radio Orchestra is remarkably good; just occasionally a little wiry in the strings and typically grainy in the woodwind but extraordinarily expressive and responsive to Kegel's subtle variations in phrasing and tempi. I do not say that any of the singers here is better than those on more celebrated recordings but this is another of those "the whole is better than the sum of its parts" phenomena.

Ulrik Cold is decidedly too light of voice compared with the majestic, organ-toned Kurt Moll but he sings so intelligently and sensitively, making Gurnemanz far less of an old bore or buffer. René Kollo is slightly drier of voice than of yore but he is never less than involved and affecting and he does not bleat or scoop. Reid Bunger's Klingsor is vocally apt and craven, even if he is no Hermann Uhde. Theo Adam is a bit rocky to start with but his Amfortas is something of a tour de force, horrible yet paradoxically vocally beautiful in his agony. The Titurel is suitably firm and grave and the Flower Maidens vibrant and alluring of tone. More controversial is Gisela Schröder; personally I like her dark, nervous, slightly tremulous soprano which manages to suggest simultaneously remorse, vulnerability and dangerous, erotic passion - and she is another excellent vocal actor. She doesn't quite nail the famous drop of almost two octaves from high B to middle C sharp on "lachte" but she is truly chilling as Kundry.

If you like this "sacred opera", you can surely risk trying this version which offers so much quality at so low a price; you will not have heard another quite like it.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Clipped" Tracks, 16 Feb 2011
By 
Mr. C. Westwood (UK) - See all my reviews
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Caveat Emptor - most of these tracks are 'clipped'; and carried on to the start of the next tracks. This causes seemingly "drop-outs" on the tracks and really is not acceptable
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