Notes and Editorial Reviews
More recent versions do not quite catch the immediacy and inevitability of this moving and elevated version, now sounding better than ever in its remastered form.
This is not merely one of Philips's Great Recordings but also one of the greatest sets of all time. Every time one returns to it, its inspiration and distinction seem to have been enhanced, its all enveloping eloquence the more evident. Its over riding advantage over all other recordings of the work, which it shares with the Teldec, is Knappertsbusch's masterly traversal of the score, even more aware of dramatic impetus, long line and Wagnerian import, and more accurately executed than in 1951, as well as being better caught in stereo than in mono.
Listening to it immediately after the Goodall Rhinegold, I immediately realised why the English conductor had been so much affected and influenced by his senior. Their respective qualities are so similar, based on a realisation of Haieptstimme, so essential in Wagner, and on an innate sense of correct pacing, never too slow or too fast, and apparently in the mode Hermann Levi employed at the premiere. But I would wager that the orchestral playing in 1962 is far superior than what might have been heard in 1883 - and the same goes for the Pitz-trained chorus, who cover themselves in glory with singing so disciplined and intense, even more so than in 1951. Then there is Hotter's supreme Gurnemanz. Deryck Cooke in his notes, happily retained from an earlier reissue, refers to Hotter giving 'the performance of his life'. In his chapter on the work for Opera on Record (Hutchinson: 1979) Robin Holloway describes Hotter's reading as 'all-surpassing', one which 'rises to whatever eloquence is needed, whether stern, sad or celebratory'. This time I was struck anew simply by the human warmth of the interpretation and, once more, by its Lieder singer's wealth of verbal detail. He and his conductor make the central climaxes of Act 3 the great spiritual experiences they should be, but seldom are.
Almost as excellent is George London's superbly sung, agonised, agonising Amfortas, now more deeply felt than in 1951. Then the young Martti Talvela is indeed luxury casting as Titurel. The other soloists do not surpass their 1951 counterparts. Thomas sings musically and with sincere feeling as Parsifal, but in the earlier recording Wolfgang Windgassen, after a disengaged Act 1, finds his most committed and articulate form when it matters in the succeeding acts, and sounds vocally more at home than his American successor. Irene Dalis obviously modelled her Kundry on Modl's very idiosyncratic 1951 reading, and inevitably it is the original that triumphs over the copy, but Dalis is good enough in her own right for that not to matter too much. Neidlinger's imposingly nasty Klingsor is only a mite below the standard set by the unsurpassed Hermann Uhde in 1951.
There have been much-admired Parsifals in more recent times, notably Barenboim (Teldec, 10/91) and Karajan (DG, 10/84), but neither of these studio-made sets quite catches the immediacy and inevitability of this moving and elevated version, now sounding freshened in its remastered form.
-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone [8/2001]
Works on This Recording
Parsifal by Richard Wagner
Hans Hotter (Baritone),
Jess Thomas (Tenor),
Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone),
Irene Dalis (Mezzo Soprano),
Niels Moller (Tenor),
Gerd Nienstedt (Bass Baritone),
Sona Cervena (Mezzo Soprano),
Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano),
Gerhard Stolze (Tenor),
Georg Paskuda (Baritone),
Gundula Janowitz (Soprano),
Anja Silja (Mezzo Soprano),
Elsa-Margrete Gardelli (Mezzo Soprano),
Martti Talvela (Bass),
George London (Baritone),
Rita Bartos (Soprano),
Dorothea Siebert (Soprano)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,
Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Written: 1877-1882; Germany
Date of Recording: 1962
Venue: Live Festival House, Bayreuth, Germany
Length: 250 Minutes 12 Secs.
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