5.0 out of 5 stars suffocate in it's beauty
i have always preferred karajan's modern wagner of cooler colors as opposed to the blood and thunder of say, solti.
this recording ranks with karajan's tristan, his mahler ninth, his la mer, and his recording set of schoenberg, berg, and webern.
Published on April 9 2004 by ageofanxiety
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful playing, but......
This was my first Parsifal recording and I fell in love with the beautiful voice of Kurt Moll when the Prelude was over. The performance was very good until Dunja Vejzovic's Kundry came in. That and the performance of Peter Hofmann really put me off. At the time I even thought those singers sang coursely. After having bought the Barenboim set did I really start to love...
Published on Mar 28 2001 by Erik Aleksander Moe
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5.0 out of 5 stars suffocate in it's beauty,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)i have always preferred karajan's modern wagner of cooler colors as opposed to the blood and thunder of say, solti.
this recording ranks with karajan's tristan, his mahler ninth, his la mer, and his recording set of schoenberg, berg, and webern.
4.0 out of 5 stars Unmatched orchestral performance but...,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)The Berlin Philharmonic is undoubtedly one of the world's great orchestras, some say the greatest. Indeed, their distinguished playing renders this Parsifal with an unmatched orchestral performance on record, as only the sharpest of players will do for Karajan's surgical precision.
Sadly, it is the singers missing that last sparkle needed to carry this work to the realm of fantasy. That is not say they are lackluster or incompetent, these are very fine performances: Kurt Moll sings with command, if not power; and Peter Hofmann is memorable, if not special. Perhaps I'm just spoiled by Knapperbtusch's 1962 Bayreuth performance. Either way, that is not much more that I can add to what other reviewers have already noted. Only that the Knap. version is now out of print. Get it while you can! If your unable to secure the Kna. rendition, then Mr. Karajan will still indeed take you further than everyone else.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pity about the Parsifal,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)Is this the most beautiful music ever written?? Perhaps only Cosi Fan Tutte can rival the almost unbearable beauty of Wagner's last, and most intense, score. There's really nothing like it. Whenever I listen to this work I can hardly believe the sounds Wagner comes up with; the clarity and precision of the orchestration; the intense melodic beauty; that strange other-worldliness that seems to permeate every note, especially in Act Three. There are so many moments where you find your heart in your mouth over the transcendent beauty of the score, for example when Titurel's coffin is opened at the end of Act Three. Just a simple shift from minor key to major is awesome. So, what about Karajan's recording. Undoubtedly, it gets five stars for his conducting and the playing of the Berlin Philharmonic. Orchestral playing doesn't get any better than this. Yes, Karajan's conducting almost borders on the static at times, robbing the music of any dramatic power, but the power of Karajan's reading comes from a complete realisation of the spirituality of the music, a spirituality that is inextricably entwined in the work's beauty. It transfixes the listener in a unique way. It's an aesthete's dream come true! Kurt Moll's Gurnemanz is exceptionally well sung and holds the entire vocal performance together. It's wonderfully lyrical. Nimsgern's Klingsor is well-sung, if again undramatic but I loved Dunja Vejzovic's Kundry. Also, she gives the best mocking laughter in Act Two you can imagine! Modl is perhaps better in Knappertsbusch's 1951 Bayreuth recording. Windgassen in that recording is supreme, definitely far superior to Peter Hofmann's unpleasant, ugly, grating, shrill, strained, unmusical, rubbish effort as Parsifal. He really lets this performance down, but you have to make the judgement as to whether his failure puts you off the entire recording. I admit that it's a major drawback. Jose van Dam is good as Amfortas, no more, and not really as dramatically convincing as George London for Kna 1951. The digital recording brings an astounding clarity to the score. If you can live with Hofmann's Parsifal then get this extraordinary set. In fact, get it anyway, and also purchase Kna's 1951 Bayreuth set for a more dramatic reading, with acceptable but drastically less beautiful sound, that has just been released on Naxos's budget label.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic Parsifal,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)Of the many Parsifal recordings available, this is one of the very best. Karajan perfectly captures the depraved beauty of the score, with a most impressive cast of singers. Hofmann is the most believable Parsifal on record and Vejovic is in powerful, intense voice. Van Dam and Moll are without equal, and the Berlin Philharmonic and chorus sound out of this world. Flawless digital recording, with perfect balance between voice and orchesta.
4.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly beautiful, but it misses the soul of the work,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)Wagner's final masterpiece demands an orchestra capable of producing gauzy, radiant sonorities, a cast with both beauty of tone and, perhaps even more important, superb acting skills, and a conductor with a talent for both sustaining long musical lines and bringing them together into an overwhelming overall tapestry. Above all, everyone must capture the mood and feel of this challenging piece. This last point is the reason why I think studio recordings of this opera, perhaps even of any Wagner opera, are at a disadvantage right from the start. It's much easier to capture the elusive soul of this work when you're living the story on stage.
Karajan's 1980 recording is a case in point. This performance never achieves lift-off. It doesn't soar. Its feet remain firmly planted on the ground. Which is a pity, considering that the miraculous sound world of Wagner's final opera has probably never been so stunningly captured as it is on this recording.
The most impressive aspect of this recording is the absolutely astounding playing of the Berlin Philharmonic. For instance, the Act 1 Prelude is one of the most stunning examples of Wagner's orchestral wizardry in his entire output, and to be able to hear it in a performance this gorgeous is almost incredible. The pure radiance of the strings is almost otherworldly, but I think it's the luminous bass line that is the real secret to the incredible texture. Throughout the work, the BPO achieves revelation after revelation in terms of sheer sound.
Karajan turns in a towering reading of this monumental score. He was always an expert with huge works, and his command of the structure of the score is exemplary. He faithfully observes Wagner's numerous dynamic markings, essential to the expression of the score, and throughout the work, his conducting achieves tremendous intensity (notably in the Act 1 Transformation Music and in the Act 3 Prelude). The only problem is, he's so obsessed with drawing out those incredible sonorities that he misses the soul of Wagner's drama. The central section of Act 3, where transcendence and spirituality in the conducting are absolutely necessary, is quite earth-bound. The orchestral playing, while stunning, is not sufficient to carry the performance off the ground. As with almost all post-1960 Karajan, it all seems too calculated, too pre-meditated, too un-spontaneous. Comparison with other pre-eminent Wagner conductors proves the point. In all of his recordings, Knappertsbusch, whose particular qualities made him more suited to this particular work than anyone else, provides the transcendent lift to the music that Karajan so drastically lacks (although it must be said, Kna's orchestras are nowhere near as good as the Berlin Philharmonic). Even Solti, not normally known for spirituality, was in exceptional form for his 1972 Decca recording, and his performance soars more truthfully and effortlessly than Karajan's.
Karajan's cast is strong overall, spearheaded by the weighty bass of Kurt Moll as Gurnemanz. Moll gives us a warmly, beautifully sung performance, solemn and moving in the great climaxes, but light years behind the incredible achievement of Hans Hotter on the 1962 Knappertsbusch set. José van Dam is the most beautiful, smooth, musical Amfortas on record, although he doesn't always realize the full dramatic potential of this moving character. Siegmund Nimsgern is a resonant but sometimes gritty Klingsor, and he never comes close to matching the menacing Hermann Uhde from Kna's 1951 Bayreuth set. Victor von Halem is a sonorous Titurel. Dunja Vejzovic is a very acceptable Kundry, secure of both voice and interpretation, but she never matches the magnificent singing of Solti's Ludwig in one of her finest recorded achievements. The huge weak link in the cast is, unfortunately, Parsifal himself. Peter Hofmann's dry, gritty, effortful singing and uninspired interpretation are unfortunate in the extreme. Hearing him immediately after the velvety richness of Jess Thomas or the honeyed beauty of Wolfgang Windgassen is almost laughable. The choral work is secure and beautiful, but isn't on the level of Solti's Vienna ensemble.
Overall, this performance captures the orchestral sound world of "Parsifal" more impressively and beautifully than any other. Unfortunately, the performance remains earthbound due to a lack of spontaneity, a preoccupation with the beautiful textures, and a flawed cast. It is undoubtedly a very impressive recording, but among studio recordings I prefer Solti's Vienna / Decca set, for its more involved cast (highlighted by Ludwig's fabulous Kundry), Solti's admirably sincere and communicative direction, and above all the overwhelming work from the Vienna State Opera ensemble. First choice overall remains the classic 1962 Knappertsbusch, for the most inspired conducting of the score on record, a flawless cast including Hotter's supreme Gurnemanz, dedicated ensemble work from the Bayreuth forces, and a very special atmosphere which permeates the entire effort, surely one of the three greatest Wagner recordings ever.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good-- but good enough?,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)That is, good enough to buy instead of two other highly recommendable versions? You may in fact prefer Karajan's approach, which could be called "apocalyptic." This is a rarity among recordings Karajan made in his final decade: the critics like it! It even won Grammophone Magazine's Record of the Year. Unfortunately-- for Karajan-- Daniel Barenboim went into the studio in about 1990 with the same orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and recorded a more spiritual and patient version. Barenboim actually might sound a little soft around the edges, but, as with many of Karajan's digital recordings, this "Parsifal" has a harshness in the loud parts that is disturbing. The cast ranges from good to excellent. Dunja Vejzovic is stunning as Kundry, although she seems more "coached" or coaxed to sing the right notes than Waltraud Meier for Barenboim. Peter Hofmann as Parsifal is in the good category, maybe even a little lower. In the great category are Jose van Dam as Amfortas (as he was again for Barenboim) and Kurt Moll as a Gurnemanz surpassed only by Hans Hotter. That takes me to Knappertsbusch's 1962 Bayreuth "Parsifal." His version is quite simply the greatest Wagner recording of all, making Karajan a distant third. Kna brings as much muscle to his performance, but with a superior cast-- Jess Thomas as Parsifal being the biggest advantage-- and a deeper view of the work. Still, if you want a second version, after Knappertsbusch, I can see how Karajan's grandeur might be preferable to Barenboim's softer view.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Really Over the Top Parsifal!!,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)This is Wagner at his most sublime, most intense and beautiful. Karajan squeeze every last bit of emotion, spirituality and sublimeness out of the score. In fact I found it too overwhelming to listen to for more then 30 minutes - it is too strong!
But in short doses it sends me into exctasy like no other recording of Parsifal can.
For longer doses I prefer the more gripping and dramatic Boulez recording!
Sound is great for early digital!!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Beauty,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)This is my first Parsifal, (actually I heard another parsifal a few years ago which I hated, I became a wagnerian only recently so I didn't care to remember who the conductor was!). This is ultimate beauty , such sublime music is truly miraculous, I sometimes feel that the first few notes of the prelude followed by the "Dresden Amen" contain the meaning of life , I truly feel redeemed.
It seems that after intense romantic epics like "Tristan und Isolde" Wagner seeked peace and resignation into this imaginative mystical realm that seems to be synonymous with death. Like a wounded warrior who lived his life to the fullest at the end of his days he seeked simple profound beauty, beauty that redeems the human condition and makes one feel that our suffering under the sun in not completely pointless.
As for Karajan I think he's a much better wagnerian than Solti.Alhough many complain of his academic approach to beethoven and other romantics I think that this is his ultimate strength. You don't have to worry with him that the performance doesn't match the written score, and he lets the music deliver it's own meaning without the pretensions introduced by other conductors.
Like I said , I don't know about other Parsifal's, but this is definitely worth buying, plus it's an awesome digital recording!!
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful playing, but......,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)This was my first Parsifal recording and I fell in love with the beautiful voice of Kurt Moll when the Prelude was over. The performance was very good until Dunja Vejzovic's Kundry came in. That and the performance of Peter Hofmann really put me off. At the time I even thought those singers sang coursely. After having bought the Barenboim set did I really start to love this opera.
What I also found about this set was that I thought it was boringly conducted at several points in the opera, especially in the first act. Having recordings of Karajan's from 50's, 60's and 70's I think that in his later years he was SO preoccupied with beauty of the score that he forgot about the drama. His Parsifal recording is proof of this.
I have tried several times to listen to this set since to make myself think that it was just my mood, or something like that, that was the factor of my initial opinion. But I just seem to lose interest in the middle of the first act, after tolerating the not well sung Parsifal of Peter Hofmann. I just go back to Barenboim set.
5.0 out of 5 stars Karajan's finest Wagner,
This review is from: Parsifal Comp (Ger) (Audio CD)Even though many love his Dresden Meistersinger, I think this Parsifal is Karajan's greatest Wagner recording. He challenges the Berlin Philharmonic to the most sublime sounds imaginable, the orchestral performance is nothing short of superhuman, but Karajan's conducting is also very humane and humble, he may not be as stirring as Knappertsbusch, but in his own sound-world he is fantastic. His cast is far more satisfying than in his Ring or Tristan recordings. Top honors go to the towering Gurnemanz of Kurt Moll, who sings so beautifully he could be singing Mozart. Jose van Dam is every bit as good. The Parsifal and the Kundry are not in that class, but they are very acceptable. All in all, this is the finest Parsifal recording since Knappertsbusch Bayreuth recording. As for the competition, I can't recommend Levine's DG recording with Placido Domingo, it's much too slow and soporiphic; good as the Met Orchestra is, they are nowhere near the Berlin Philharmonic. On the other hand, Baremboim is much better, and he also has the BPO in resplendent form. His trump card is Waltraud Meier as Kundry, the best Kundry of the last 50 years, but his Gurnemanz is not in Moll's class.
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Parsifal Comp (Ger) by Richard Wagner (Audio CD - 1990)
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