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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BPO in all its glory with a strong cast
Several previous reviewers, especially Stewart Crowe and KC, have got this right, so I won't belabour the point, just add a few home-grown thoughts of my own.

"Parsifal" is one of those operas I cannot stop collecting and, like all obsessives, I seek the ultimate version which of course does not exist. Hitherto, I have hugely enjoyed Karajan's and Kubelik's...
Published 1 month ago by Ralph Moore

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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DON'T get this......................
the sound is such that you're either straining to hear it or running to turn down the volume. bad engineering.
it goes from whisper soft to waaaaaaaaay too loud.

there i've warned you.
Published on 27 Jan 2012 by Peter M. Rossetti


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BPO in all its glory with a strong cast, 29 May 2014
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
Several previous reviewers, especially Stewart Crowe and KC, have got this right, so I won't belabour the point, just add a few home-grown thoughts of my own.

"Parsifal" is one of those operas I cannot stop collecting and, like all obsessives, I seek the ultimate version which of course does not exist. Hitherto, I have hugely enjoyed Karajan's and Kubelik's stereo recordings, while always finding time for the many and various Knappertsbusch live Bayreuth recordings, all in mono except for the famous 1962 performance; I especially like that version and Kna's last one from 1964 with Hotter in best voice and a young Jon Vickers. The 1951 inaugural performance does not thrill me despite the wonderful conducting and the presence of several peerless singers: I find Ludwig Weber rather dull and wobbly compared with the magnificent Kurt Moll, who remains my beau idéal of a Gurnemanz.

Therein lies the rub here: Matthias Hölle is undoubtedly a fine singer, grave and steady but clearly in the lighter-voiced mould and in comparison with the greatest - Hotter in his prime and the aforementioned Moll - he is, well, just ordinary, without Hotter's psychological profundity and warm humanity or Moll's sheer, purring fluency of voice. Similarly, Jerusalem is singing to the limits of his voice and is somewhat dry of tone at climactic points, nor does he provide the impassioned involvement of Vickers or even James King at his best - but I have no real complaint about him. Otherwise, this is still a first-rate cast, with a young Waltraud Meier providing a subtle and intelligent Kundry, von Kannen a rather hollow, dry-voiced but clearly psychotic and very dramatic Klingsor and van Dam repeating his peerlessly vocalised Amfortas, combining beauty of sound with desperate anguish and perhaps even an enhanced maturity since his recording for Karajan.

Speaking of which, this is the BPO just post-Karajan and it retains the aureate glow he cultivated in them over the years. The orchestral passages, especially the Transformation Music and Preludes, are simply stunning and enhanced by the acoustic of the Jesus-Christus-Kirche being so roundly caught by the engineers. I love Barenboim's trick of implementing barely perceptible rallentandos just before the climax. He has here shaken off the sclerotic tempi which marred his Bayreuth performances and which caused controversy; this is a "normally" paced "Parsifal" and his manner is closest to Karajan's hieratic treatment of this work as a combination of staged ritual and intense drama.

It would be churlish indeed to award fewer than five stars to a recording which gets so much right and is clearly more than the sum of its parts, even if it not my first choice. The curious, tolerant of a more propulsive approach to "Parsifal", could also sample the super-bargain Kegel and the Boulez, while, for a wild ride, you could also try the heavily cut version starring a surprisingly apt Callas, Christoff, Panerai and Baldelli singing in Italian under Gui.

No libretto in this bargain re-issue.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parsifal, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
I was pleased with and I enjoy listening to it.
It will be played frequently, time after time.
Thank you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class Performance and Recording, 9 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
I chose this CD set because I have always had the highest regard for Daniel Barenboim as a conductor. I greatly admire his apparently minimalist style that so well respects his performers, allowing them the freedom to give of their individual best whilst letting him take care of the whole. To me, it is a supreme example of leadership that could well be followed in many other walks of life. Here, the result is a performance that I doubt can be bettered artistically and technically the sound is superb.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's hard not see this superb recording and performance as "First Choice!"-it's certainly up there with the very best!, 1 Mar 2013
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
In some respects this is the " sleeping giant" of recordings of Parsifal, as whenever recommendation lists are flourished it rarely features, unless it's my list! The auspices were not favourable when this recording was announced in 1989, initially as an Erato enterprise but shifted to Teldec when Warner's absorbed the Erato label, as in 1988 Barenboim had deputised at the last minute for an indisposed James Levine at Bayreuth and conducted what was by all accounts the slowest ever account, eclipsing the legendary Toscanini which held the record, and which was too slow even for the Bavarian critics who relish a slow rendition. Further worries were caused by the experience of his Berlin recordings of the 3 Mozart da Ponte operas which were, shall we say, SLOW!
When the set emerged in 1991, all of these fears proved groundless as whether he had some sort of epiphany or the Bayreuth performance had been an aberration, in this recording tempi were very finely judged indeed, not dissimilar to both Karajan and Kubelik. Recorded in the glorious acoustic of the Jesus Christus Kirche in Dahlem, venue for so many great Karajan recordings, the BPO is captured in rich, full and detailed sound, lusher and with much more body than for Karajan 10 years earlier, and I would have to say that the glowing orchestral sound picture herein depicted is the most noble and beautiful of all recordings, surpassing even the sumptuous sound world conjured up by Levine with the Met orchestra. The dynamic range is very wide, and the processional moments rise to a hair rising climax.
Vocally there are no weak links, only strength upon strength.
I'm an unashamed admirer of Jerusalem, whose firm ringing tones are not taxed in any way, and who in phrase after phrase reminds me of Windgassen at his best. His "Nur eine waffe taugt.." is the finest I can recall and brings a lump to the throat. His Kundry is Waltraud Meier, in lustrous voice who is an intelligent less hysterical Kundry than some, and who is deeply moving in the impassioned duet in Act 2. von Kannen is an evil Klingsor without making him a pantomime villain, and the Flower Maidens are a beautifully balanced seductive group.
Jose van Dam repeats his powerful, impassioned Amfortas, every bit as well sung as for Karajan and with even more maturity putting him well on a par with the searing performances by London. Matthias Holle is nobility and compassion itself, his beautifully modulated voice very much reminiscent of Hotter and Ludwig Weber rather than the sonority of Moll and Crass. The chorus is more accomplished and better focussed than earlier recordings, and the bells are deeply sonorous and sound less artificial than those for Karajan.
This brings us back to Barenboim, who conducts a deeply felt seamless performance, striking the ideal balance between the spirituality of the oratorio and the drama of the opera, as all the best interpreters do. The transitions are gloriously played, and the postlude has all the ethereal beauty for which one could pray-and is not rushed as seems to be the modern trend. There are none of the inexplicable (to me!) sudden tempo changes-often mid bar-that blight many of his later Wagner performances, and indeed this is not an obvious Barenboim performance-it's very "mainstream".
I have the original release and I understand that the reissue does not include a libretto, but this can be obtained easily enough, and at the attractive price should not be a deterrent.
The quality of every aspect of this enterprise and the attractive price make it difficult not to put this forward as potentially "best buy"-I know that I enjoy it as much as ANY other recording and more than most. I hope that it now finds a wider constituency! Unreservedly recommended. Stewart Crowe.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Parsifal..., 26 May 2012
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
Wagner, surrounded by silks, satins and exotic perfumes, relieved of all financial debt by King Ludwig - underwritten by the state of Bavaria - composed his Weltabschiedswerk, as he called it, in an environment conducive to the creation of Parsifal, his final masterpiece. Wagner's, ermm, peculiar sensibilities demanded such extravagance and dare one say subservience. Parsifal received its first performance at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre on the 26th July 1882 with Hermann Levi conducting. Levi, the son of a rabbi, was greatly admired by Wagner - however, his musical ability was not in question, but his race and religion were! Wagner protested long and loud - had Ludwig - whose adoration and devotion were absolute - failed to understand the anti-Semitic message of Parsifal? Perhaps King Ludwig's dalliance with Austrian Jewish actor, Josef Kainz, accounted for his intransigence? Such was Wagner's fury over the conductor's appointment that he subjected Levi to merciless, offensive attacks. Ultimately, sanity prevailed, Levi survived the onslaught and Wagner acquiesced.

Parsifal, a psychologically complex drama, is open to myriad interpretations. Wagner bends Christianity to his creative will and mythologizes it in his own image - Parsifal is Wagner's final testament, in which he condensed and refined all of his theories and views - ostensibly to a bare minimum - fully loaded and rich in symbolism. Parsifal is a work which some Wagnerians find unpalatable due to Wagner "expounding extremist views" through the medium of music drama, but Wagner was a man of paradox and contradiction, if nothing else! Parsifal is, effectively, a portrait of the artist - warts and all!

Daniel Barenboim conducts a staggeringly beautiful - Pre-Raphaelite-like - and intensely dramatic account of Parsifal, rich in vibrant orchestral colour and drenched in Wagnerian mysticism. The full spectrum of emotions, from religious belief/reverence to flagrant sensuality/sexuality, is conveyed by Barenboim with great attention to detail - his palette positively glows with primary colours. Barenboim is blessed by having both the magnificent Berlin Philharmonic and a superb cast, not to mention the excellent chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin who sing with great control, power and fervency.

Siegfried Jerusalem thoroughly convinces in the title role - from innocence and simplicity to spiritual enlightenment and compassion, Jerusalem is completely immersed in the character. By the third Act the transformation from boy to man is palpable - he is older and wiser. Matthias Holle's Gurnemanz is bursting with wisdom and noble bearing, with gravitas in abundance and his Hotter-like tone providing rich insights. Jose van Dam gives a performance which eclipses his earlier Amfortas for Karajan - that wound and the shame it brings are a heavy burdon which van Dam expresses with considerably more depth, feeling and commitment this time. Gunter von Kannen's Klingsor is splendidly evil, exuding malice and menace, yet one feels for this Klingsor; rejected and ostracized, von Kannen reveals the inner torment and turmoil/dichotomy - this wicked garden and its Flower Maidens are more tempting than most and one understands Klingsor's desire to ensnare and destroy the knights of the Grail all the more. Waltraud Meier's Kundry is second to none; she has the measure of the savage, insane creature of the first Act and excels as the would be seductress in Act 2 where Parsifal resists Kundry's advances and very many charms. John Tomlinson's Titurel is in rude health - perhaps a tad too healthy given the decrepit character's moribund state? Nonetheless, a fine performance, and that goes for all concerned.

Daniel Barenboim joins the great pantheon of Parsifal conductors - his is the sixth Parsifal to be added to my collection, but it vies for first place along with the recordings of Karajan and Knappertsbusch. The excellent recording has a very wide dynamic range and is incredibly detailed with remarkable clarity, breadth and depth. All things considered, Barenboim's Parsifal is as close to perfection, in my opinion, as a studio recording can be and it is of such high artistic merit - in every sense - that it reminded me of just why the musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic favoured Barenboim as Herbert von Karajan's successor. The orchestra voted for Claudio Abbado - as gifted as he is - for reasons other than musicianship. Such is the world of politics behind the closed doors of power!

The set's documentation includes a synopsis, but is sans libretto/translation. Of course, this will be of little concern should the potential purchaser happen to understand the German language or have other sets which include translations of the text. Text issues aside, the set is magnificent - pure, unalloyed pleasure.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding modern recording, 28 Aug 2013
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This is in every way an outstanding modern recording of this last opera by Wagner. wonderful soloists and interpretation by a great Wagner interpreter
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime performance, 16 May 2013
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Cannot fault the performance. It is sublime. In excellent sound as well. All the cast appear to be well up to the mark. There may be better performances out there but this one is very good indeed. A very safe recommendation.
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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DON'T get this......................, 27 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
the sound is such that you're either straining to hear it or running to turn down the volume. bad engineering.
it goes from whisper soft to waaaaaaaaay too loud.

there i've warned you.
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Parsifal
Parsifal by Daniel Barenboim (Audio CD - 2011)
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