Wagner: Parsifal / Rudolf Kempe, Covent Garden

Album cover art for upc 749677145521
Label: Testament
Catalog: SBT1455
Format: CD

The Covent Garden Opera Chorus Boys from the Choir of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster; Students of the Edith Cavell Secondary School (Chorus Master, Douglas Robinson); Covent Garden Orchestra,(leader, Charles Taylor), conducted by Rudolf Kempe and with Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry and Ludwig Weber as Gurnemanz

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883): Parsifal

Parsifal at the Royal Opera, 1959: Wagner’s last music-drama, Parsifal, was performed at Covent Garden for the first time after the Second World War in 1951, conducted by the Music Director Karl Rankl, and with Kirsten Flagstad as Kundry and Ludwig Weber as Gurnemanz, among a distinguished but not invariably suitable cast, and in the same production as its first performance in the house, in 1914. It is worth remembering that in the late forties there was no recording of the complete work available, though there had been substantial excerpts, including an almost complete Act III, under the great Parsifal conductor Karl Muck, that had been in the catalogue since 1928. Nonetheless, the opera still had a reputation, separate from Wagner’s other works, of being pretentious, religiose and above all, slow. Then in 1952 Decca published a complete recording made at performances given the year before at the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival under Hans Knappertsbusch, the successor to Muck as Parsifal-conductor-in-chief: he conducted it 55 times in Bayreuth between 1951 and 1964, the year before he died. That recording made an immense impression, partly because the sound was so staggering, the acoustics of the Festspielhaus having been caught wonderfully well by the Decca recording crew and partly because, listened to at home, and with the text in the booklet that Decca sold separately, Parsifal revealed itself to many sceptics as a work of overwhelming beauty, depth and humanity. It had long been revered by musicians, especially composers – and particularly composers who were in general opposed to Wagner and all he stood for, such as Debussy and Stravinsky – for its breathtakingly original orchestration and its harmonic boldness. But these were now revealed as being in the service of what The Record Guide described as “Wagner’s last, strangest and deepest thoughts”. from the booklet note Michael Tanner, 2010

Price: $91.98