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Parsifal probably isn't an opera for everyone, but it does contain some of Wagner's most beautiful and moving music, remarkable characters, and and amazing transformation of the eponymous character from a naive idiot to an insightful and powerful leader. I have quite a few recordings and have seen it live twice - ironically, even though separated by a gap of some 30 years, Gurnemanz was sung by Kurt Moll both times.
The Solti performance strikes me as very good, but not great. Some of the Act I transitions come off as slightly clumsy, although Solti seems to improve as the opera progresses. The singing is quite good, but the performance doesn't seem as natural and lived in as the 62 Bayreuth version conducted by Knappertbusch, who was of course the resident Parsifal maven at Bayreuth for many years. This recording is still my first recommendation to anyone, although I have not heard Karajan or Boulez. Furthermore, Wagner conceived Parsifal for the pit at Bayreuth, so there is an authenticity about hearing it that way, although a "non-pit" sound can be refreshing.
Last year, I acquired the new Gergiev Parsifal, but it has failed to make any impression of me. I really just can't describe it at all, so it must be rather faceless. The Janowski is on its way in the US mail. I would love to hear the 64 Kna Bayreuth, which has Vickers as Parsifal.
Based on the Meistersinger thread below, I have started to listen to the Kempe EMI recording of Meistersinger...my goodness, there is a lot of great music in Act I.....this is an LP set I picked up a few years back, and have not yet heard.
Parsifal doesn't really play to Solti's strengths; on records, I usually find him weakest in slow, reflective music, where he is often unable to maintain a sense of forward momentum. Levine, for example, conducts MUCH more slowly, but the music always seems to be going someplace. And then there are Furtwangler and Knappertsbusch....
If you want a recording with Moll (and who wouldn't?), the Kubelik recording, which seems to have appeared with virtually no fanfare a few years ago, is the one to buy. In fact, on balance, it's probably the most recommendable recording of the opera:
I was underwhelmed in between, even the flower maiden scene. Story is fascinating though.
John, I am starting to think that you are no Wagnerite......you don't like Meistersinger, nor Parsifal....pretty soon you will be saying you prefer the Ring ohne Worten!
Admittedly not as spiritual or reverent as most others in this work, Boulez nevertheless generates plenty of excitement in his cool, somewhat detached approach, particularly in the 2nd Act, where James King and especially Gwyneth Jones simply cut loose in hair-raising scene after hair-raising scene. Love it!
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