Wagner: Parsifal - Windgassen, Mödl, Weber, London, Uhde, Böhme, Stolze, Streich, Töpper; Knappertsbusch. Bayreuth, 1952
Listen to a Sample:
- It is amazing that this was just the second summer of the Bayreuth Festival after WWII, and already they had achieved a level of artistic excellence that would rarely be paralleled in the time since anywhere in the world.
- Hans Knappertsbusch is the true star of this performance, as is the Bayreuth orchestra who bring a level of lyricism and emotion that I have never heard in this score. The string sections, in particular, sound as if they were populated by world-class soloists, both in their tone and their commitment to the melodic line. Listen to how they play through the long notes (I specifically chose excerpts in the sample that highlight their playing.) The intention never flags, which allows Knappertsbusch to revel in the magic of this score in a way that would be impossible with a lesser band.
- If you ever had reservations about Martha Mödl's vocal ability, this performance will put them all to rest. She sings with her signature dramatic commitment, as well as remarkable vocal control. Not only are the dramatic moments full-throated, but she manages some exquisite pianissimi.
- Wolfgang Windgassen's pristine tenor is perfectly cast in the title role.
- I could go on and on about Ludwig Weber's majestic Gurnemanz, and George London's anguished Amfortas, but I feel that I am running out of superlatives. Suffice it to say this Parsifal is near definitive.
- I was amazed how many missed entrances this cast makes. You would think that given the amount of rehearsal Bayreuth has they would be a bit more on the ball.