> Wagner - Parsifal [IL]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Parsifal (1878-82)
Amfortas: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar)
Titurel: Hans Hotter (bass)
Gurnemanz: Gottlob Frick (bar)
Parsifal: René Kollo (ten)
Klingsor: Zoltan Kélémen (bar)
Kundry: Christa Ludwig (sop)
First Knight: Robert Tear (ten)
Second Knight: Herbert Lackner (ten)
Alstimme: Birgit Finnilä (con)
First Esquire: Rotrund Hansmann
Second Esquire: Marga Schiml
Third Esquire: Heinz Zednik
Fourth Esquire: Ewald Aichberger
Klingsor’s flower maidens: Lucia Popp; Alison Hargan; Anne Howells; Kiri Te Kanawa; Gillian Knight; Margarita Lilowa (sop)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Georg Solti
Recorded in the Sofiensaal, Vienna 1972 and
DECCA 470 805-2
[4 CDs 260:10]

Of all the celebrated recordings of Parsifal this 1972 Solti version must boast the most distinguished cast – all delivering fine expressive and technically polished performances; the principals especially well controlled in their long paragraphs. The playing of the Vienna Philharmonic is glorious. This new reissue using Decca’s state-of-the-art technology ("Remastered from the original tapes using the latest 96Hz 24-bit Super Digital Transfer and state-of-the-art noise reduction techniques"), sounds ravishing particularly in the grand set pieces such as the glorious Act I celebration of the Grail and the concluding redemption scene.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau captures Amfortas’s anguished impotence, and his defiance exceedingly well. René Kollo as the innocent fool, the redeemer, Parsifal, once again proves himself to be the ideal noble Wagnerian hero. Christa Ludwig is a vibrant, and corruptly sensual Kundry in her attempts to seduce Parsifal, in Klingsor’s garden – first in motherly, then more voluptuous, tones. Gottlob Frick as Gurnemanz, whose role is to relate so much of the historical narrative is steadily noble and dignified. Zoltan Kélémen is a sinister and malevolent Klingsor. It is interesting to note as Klingsor’s flower maidens so many up-and-coming voices who would later distinguish themselves including Anne Howells, Kiri Te Kanawa, Gillian Knight and Lucia Popp.

In its day this recording was criticised for a certain lack of a rapt, spiritual quality. The refurbished sound goes some way to addressing this but Solti’s rather deliberate way with the music does tend to keep it somewhat earthbound. Therefore, despite the glorious singing, I have to say for an overwhelming musical and spiritual experience, I prefer Karajan’s intensely beautiful 1979/80 DG recording.

This new refurbishment of an acclaimed star-studded version of Wagner’s last opera sounds glorious and, for me, is only eclipsed by the DG recording.

Ian Lace

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