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Wagner: Parsifal - Bayreuther Festspiele 1955

Wagner: Parsifal - Bayreuther Festspiele 1955

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Wieland Wagner's production of Parsifal was performed at the Bayreuth Festival every year from 1951 to 1973. This makes it the longest-running production of Parsifal on the Bayreuth programme following the world premiere of 1882, which ran until 1933. Wagner’s opera opened the first post-war festival on the 30th of July, 1951, the day after the former Bayreuthian Wilhelm Furtwängler had performed Beethoven's 9th Symphony.


Hans Knappertsbusch led Wagner’s Parisfal at the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 and 1952, and then annually from 1954 through 1964. For some reason his August 16, 1955 performance has never surfaced on CD until now, and it’s one of Kna’s stronger Parsifals.

Tempos are generally faster and more fluid than in the commercial 1951 recording. Compare the Act 1 Prelude’s Grail theme and the Transformation music, the Act 2 Flowermaiden’s scene, and the Act 3 Good Friday Spell in both recordings, and you’ll hear what I mean. Furthermore, Act 1’s recalcitrant bells had been replaced by 1955 with an electronic version that was reliable in intonation yet made less sonorous and majestic an impact.

One can argue that 1955’s cast is the most consistently satisfying out of all the Kna Bayreuth Parsifals, with no weak links. Ludwig Weber reprises his distinctive and lieder-like Gurnemanz from 1951. Hermann Uhde’s heavy voice is better suited to Titurel’s gravitas here than Klingsor’s malevolence in 1951. 1955 features Gustav Neidlinger’s Klingsor, which is as riveting a piece of vocal acting as his legendary Alberich in Das Rheingold.

Ramón Vinay sings rather than barks the title role, and the unforced lyricism of his top notes seems to spur on Martha Mödl to deliver her best all-around Act 2 Kundry. True, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s Amfortas abounds with sibilantly snarling consonants, but he’s in fresher, more agile voice than in his 1972 studio Amfortas under Georg Solti.

-- ClassicsToday (Jed Distler)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 4
    • Release Date:
    • Label:
    • UPC/Barcode: 881488230024
    • Item Number: PH23002