R. Wagner, Parsifal, Thielemann / Meier, Selig, Domingo, Struckmann, Anger, Bankl
Here it might be modified to read: if you don’t have grave objections to Parsifal being older than Gurnemanz (a very fine Franz-Josef Selig – although I should have liked to see, admittedly still younger, René Pape on it), or Domingo’s still, erm… “operatic” German, or a minor howler from Benedikt Kobel’s First Knight of the Grail, or the fact that you can get the incomparable Waltraud Meier in better voice still on the Barenboim recording, or simply having a second, third, or fourth recording of Parsifal (Knappertsbusch, Barenboim, Kubelik, and even the self-consciously beautiful Karajan are, all in their own way, de rigeur) you should seek this out for true magic being unleashed in the orchestral pit courtesy of the teutonic Thielemann, who conducts in great Romantic, flexible fashion. And given just how rewarding and compelling his reading of the score is, above caveats look very minor suddenly.
Christian Thielemann was often seen as the antipode to Daniel Barenboim. Leading the two big opera houses in Berlin, sometimes verbally sparring, Barenboim as the spiritual descendent of Furtwängler, Thielemann the protégé and successor to Karajan, they were pitted by some as Barenboim the ‘cosmopolitan’ vs. Thielemann the ‘German’. That may all have calmed down since Thielemann spends most of his time in Munich with the Philharmonic and it won’t be fueled any further by this recording, either, because it is Thielemann who is more “Furtwänglerian” than Barenboim, with the tempi magnificently – I don’t want to say ‘pulled around’ - elongated and drawn together. At times Thielemann has Knappertsbusch-like gravitas and breadth, elsewhere he is swift and lean like Krauss and all is done with such a sure hand that the tempos only seem right and appropriate, never as if Thielemann were exerting his will onto the work. The balance of the recording, especially as concerns the choir, is better than in the Tristan & Isolde; stage noises don’t intrude. (Not surprising since, famously, nothing is actually going on in Parsifal.)
A glorious and necessary addition for the Parsifal maniac – but a pricey one. First choice among modern recordings remains either Barenboim or Kubelik (both studio recordings) or, among live and historic recordings, one of the many Knappertsbusch versions. With Thielemann, compromises must be accepted as far as the singing goes; the music is king: Wagnerites and those in the making will want to put this high on their Easter wish list.
DG 4776006 (B0006574-02)