Sir Mark Elder conducts the Hallé in a performance of Wagner’s Parsifal

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Halle
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Parsifal
PERFORMER: Lars Cleveman, Katarina Dalayman, John Tomlinson, Detlef Roth, Tom Fox, Reinhard Hagen, Sarah Castle, Madeleine Shaw, Joshua Ellicott, Andrew Rees, Anita Watson, Ana James; Hallé Youth Choir; Trinity Boys Choir; Royal Opera Chorus; Hallé/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: CD HLD 7539

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The Albert Hall is just the place to record Parsifal. With the choruses dispersed, it captures the vastness of the Grail Hall in a way no theatre, not even its ‘home’ Bayreuth, can. Unfortunately this 2013 Proms performance doesn’t altogether live up to it, or the high standard set in earlier Hallé Wagner sets. The Hallé, though, offers playing worthy of the orchestra’s long Wagner tradition. Elder’s very slow Prologue reminds us of his journeyman days under Reginald Goodall, leading into a luminous, measured performance with many beauties, notably the Grail scene, yet dramatic enough to animate Klingsor’s nervy strings. The choruses sing well, though their German diction isn’t ideally incisive.

The solo cast, though, suffers from emergency substitutions. Instead of Iain Paterson’s Amfortas we have Detlef Roth from Bayreuth, vocally vivid but middleweight and making surprisingly little of his words. Robert Holl is replaced as Gurnemanz by Sir John Tomlinson, dynamic as ever but now sadly dry and unsteady of voice, no joy to hear in this crucial role. Lars Cleveman, Siegfried in Opera North’s recent Ring cycle, is dramatically impressive but also rather dry-toned, and it comes as a shock and a pleasure suddenly to encounter Reinhard Hagen’s resonant Titurel and veteran Tom Fox’s sinewy Klingsor. Likewise, despite occasional shrillness, Katarina Dalayman’s Kundry, which is lighter and less lush than most, but backed by seriously fine Flowermaidens. But, with so many commanding competitors, from Hans Knappertsbusch to Rafael Kubelík, Georg Solti and even Valery Gergiev, this recording inevitably falls well down the list.

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Michael Scott Rohan