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Wagner: Parsifal (DECCA The Originals) Box set, Live, Original recording remastered

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Product details

  • Audio CD (11 Sept. 2006)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set, Live, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B000FVHGZG
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 85,476 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

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

Product Description

Wagner: Parsifal / Knappertsbusch, Thomas, Dalis, London . Release Date: 11/14/2006 . Label: Decca . Catalog #: 475 7785 . Spars Code: ADD . Composer: Richard Wagner . Performer: Jess Thomas, Gustav Neidlinger, Niels Moller, Georg Paskuda, ... Conductor: Hans Knappertsbusch . Orchestra/Ensemble: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Bayreuth Festival Chorus . Number of Discs: 4 . Recorded in: Stereo . Length: 4 Hours 10 Mins. Works on This Recording: 1. Parsifal by Richard Wagner Performer: Jess Thomas (Tenor), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Niels Moller (Tenor), Georg Paskuda (Baritone), Gerhard Stolze (Tenor), Dorothea Siebert (Soprano), Irene Dalis (Mezzo Soprano), Martti Talvela (Bass), Gerd Nienstedt (Bass Baritone), Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano), Anja Silja (Soprano), Gundula Janowitz (Soprano), George London (Baritone), Hans Hotter (Baritone), Sona Cervena (Mezzo Soprano) Conductor: Hans Knappertsbusch Orchestra/Ensemble: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Bayreuth Festival Chorus Period: Romantic Written: 1877-1882; Germany Date of Recording: 1962 Venue: Live Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany Length: 250 Minutes 0 Secs. Language: German

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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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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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Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the finest of all Parsifals - spiritually uplifting and sonically transcendent. Kna in peerless form in the Bayreuth pit bringing the best out of the players. The singing is as first rate as you would expect. If you own any Parsifal this is the one to have.
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Format: Audio CD
This is one of two versions I have of Parsifal (the other is von Karajan's 1980's digital CD recording for DG). I first bought this live 1962 Bayreuth version on CD and that was very good indeed - although why the good burghers of Bayreuth (and probably far beyond) would go to the trouble of attending the performance only to cough all the way through it is beyond me. Things do get a little less tubercular after the Act 1 Prelude however.

That aside, for a 1962 live recording the CD sound is just wonderful. But wait, just recently I came across a mint vinyl copy of this recording for a fiver at that Aladdin's cave for vinyl collectors, Ben's Records in Guildford. Having carefully cleaned it, I popped side 1 on my trusty Thorens last night and was just blown away by how much better it sounded than the CD version (and I have a £1000 Arcam CD player which I like very much so it's not that). The depth and warmth of the sound was spectacular and is I suspect the the closest you can get to having Bayreuth (and 52 year old germs) in your living room.

The other benefit of having the vinyl version is that you get a bigger size booklet with libretto you can actually read. When you are 59 and wear varifocals it is a tough ask to keep the cd booklet open at the right page and also focus on the text. Ok, you have to get up every 25 mins or so to change sides but just think of this as part of your fitness regime. Or if you are feeling really idle, have your kids (or your Butler) to do it.

The Von Karajan version I mentioned earlier is good as far as I'm any judge, but to me suffers too much from digital glare (this seems to be more prevalent with DG than other labels for some reason) which I find a bit wearing after a while.
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