Wagner: Parsifal

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Parsifal
PERFORMER: Klaus Florian Vogt, Falk Struckmann, Robert Holl, Julia Westendorp, Katarina Dalayman, Eberhard Friedrich; Netherlands Radio Phil; Netherlands Radio Choir & State Male Choir Latvija/Jaap van Zweden
CATALOGUE NO: Challenge Classics CC 72519

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This new recording of Wagner’s last work is in most respects very fine, and for me much superior to the one released last year from the Mariinsky under Valery Gergiev (reviewed October 2010). Perhaps the main glory here is the superb playing of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. It responds to every demand of the score, under the inspiring baton of Jaap van Zweden, who seems to be the ideal man to conduct this incredible score, which wounds and heals simultaneously. He has a mainly good set of soloists, with the veteran Robert Holl as a strong, moving Gurnemanz, and Falk Struckmann, a variable singer, as a tower of pain in the role of Amfortas. I am less happy with Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role. It is essential for Parsifal to grow in maturity and age from act to act, but Vogt sounds as reedily young at the conclusion as he does in his first appearance.

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There’s a lot of intelligence here, but it is just the wrong sound. And Katarina Dalayman, in the split-personality role of Kundry, is not guttural enough in her outer-acts penitence, nor voluptuous enough in the huge would-be seduction scene in Act II. The smaller parts are all well cast, and the chorus is magnificent, though it is a pity that there are only women, and no boys. The CDs are supplemented by an 81-minute DVD which gives ten excerpts from the concert performance in the Concertgebouw, revealing the commitment of everyone involved in this recording. Michael Tanner