Wagner: Parsifal

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Teldec Historic
WORKS: Parsifal
PERFORMER: George London, Arnold van Mill, Ludwig Weber, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hermann Uhde, Martha MödlBayreudi Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Hans Knappertsbusch
CATALOGUE NO: 9031-76047-2 ADD mono Reissue
Hans Knappertsbusch was the conductor of Parsifal ax. Bayreuth after the war, and the present live recording of 1951 and that of 1962 are landmarks in the history of Wagner on record.


His Parsifalis spiritual experience first, drama second. Tempi are broad in the extreme. His massive structures unfold slowly, often ponderously, yet build to moments of terrific intensity—Amfortas’s cries of ‘Erbarmen!’ (Have mercy!), for example. The Good Friday Music in particular is drenched in spiritual fervour; this is not an interpretation for the unconverted, nor is it an easy one for a more sceptical age to come to terms with.


Weber’s Gurnemanz is often unsteady, but has immense gravity, rising to heights of sublime expression. Windgassen’s Parsifal is sensitively sung, if widiout quite die authority he was later to acquire; this was the performance that brought him to international attention. Knappertsbusch’s 1962 recording (on Philips) has the incomparable Hans Hotter as Gurnemanz and is superior in its orchestral detail. Among full-price modern recordings for a more secular age, Barenboim’s (on Teldec) still burns with dramatic conviction and is superbly played. Knappertsbusch, on the other hand, is a piece of history. Barry Millington