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Customer Review

10 of 14 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
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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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Mar 2013 18:26:59 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
No need for me to guess who sought out my review to give it a NO vote-all I can say is find me a better Parsifal for £13! SC.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2014 01:47:38 BDT
Well it certainly wasn't me, Stewart, marking you down. As always an informative review. I've just purchased this recording for £13 and it's both a gem and a bargain. Not always a combination. Loved Jerusalem also . Actually everyone here is in good form. Barenboim manages to get a special incandescence, that few can match. But there again he is influenced by Furtwangler, who alas never recorded the whole work, only some so-called "bleeding chunks!

You are right that the current version has no libretto. Also Amazon seem to be confusing versions of it available. My review of the Schirmer one seems to have been posted on other versions including the ENO guide. Confusing.

All the best

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2014 09:01:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jul 2014 09:02:24 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
Graham, this is a deliberate and infuriating "innovation" deliberately implemented by Amazon. Despite the obvious illogic, annoyance and objections from regulars, they think it is a good idea to post reviews for other versions of the same work under the wrong item, despite the fact that the writers never intended any such thing. Their argument is that it makes readers aware of options; mine is that it is stupid and confusing. They don't listen.

Incidentally, you will see from my review beneath Stewart's that I bought this issue on the basis of his recommendation and did indeed like it very much, despite a few reservations.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jul 2014 21:29:29 BDT
Yes, Ralph. Seen your review and enjoyed it also. Thanks for that info about Amazon. I must admit, I put something in the review to add to the clarification. Actually it was bad, because with hindsight, I think I got the wrong version on the basis of their mixing also. I had wanted the ENO guide with it's photos etc. Though what I got was cheaper and good quality at least.

Posted on 31 Aug 2014 09:05:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 31 Aug 2014 09:10:22 BDT
Apart from Jaap van Zweden's, can you name recordings which cheat by replacing the boys' voices in the grail scenes with sopranos, so that we avoid them? ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2014 23:16:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Sep 2014 13:24:49 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
As far as I know, it's the exception rather than the rule to use boys. In my collection, I believe all the following don't use boys: Levine ('87 & '93), Kanppertsbusch ('51, '52, '62 & '64), Karajan ('80), Gatti ('13), Barenboim ('89-'90), Gui ('50), Jordan ('81), Kraus ('53) and Muck ('27-'28). I can see only two who do: Kegel ('75) and Kubelik ('80) - but I haven't listened to check, just looked at the credits.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2014 08:32:05 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Sep 2014 09:02:26 BDT
And I thought it's the other way round!

My attention was drawn to this while listening to the Solti (DG's complete operas set), which has boys' voices: the sonic effect is unique (this is also true of the Salzburg/Thielemann and Fenice/Ötvös DVDs).

I'm surprised that Bayreuth has been (is still?) ignoring this vocal aspect (since when, I wonder?), or perhaps their 'Parsifal' choruses do include boys, but they are not credited?

Do you think that sopranos replacing boys would make a performance less authentic?


In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2014 10:26:05 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Writing from the Adriatic I will be brief. The Gesamtausgabe of some 10 years ago indicates that Wagner did frequently score for boys the Woodbird in Siegfried, Tannhauser and Parsifal for example, but was pragmatic in realising the availability difficulties - and cost! As operA houses have female choruses , cost alone predicates that they are used as the default option. The Solti is a luxury version in the manner of the whole Decca series. Bayreuth uses women unless a star conductor threatens to throw his toys out of the pram if there are no boys. Kegel uses women - as does Kubelik. Both options are Lid and both reflect Wagner's own practice. The Levi premise was women only. Hope this helps- written from my iPhone so sooty for any bloopers. As ever , Stewart

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Sep 2014 13:48:29 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 2 Sep 2014 08:21:54 BDT]

Posted on 1 Sep 2014 14:28:47 BDT
Hello, Stewart! The 'mine of information' shouldn't be 'sooty for' anything ;-) Enjoy your Adriatic break!
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