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WAGNER: “PARSIFAL.” Waltraud Meier, Peter Hofmann, Simon...

WAGNER: “PARSIFAL.” Waltraud Meier, Peter Hofmann, Simon Estes, Franz Mazura, Hans Sotin; chorus and orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival conducted by James Levine. Philips 416 842-2 (four compact discs). Taped at the 1985 festival, this set is remarkable for Levine’s resplendent conducting, marked by expansive tempos for the outer acts and mounting urgency for the Klingsor scenes; the arching line of the performance is one of the glories of Wagner performances on record. Bayreuth’s fabled acoustics and the inspired orchestral and choral execution invest the reading with a glowing intensity. Yet, it’s a pity Philips didn’t record this Gotz Friedrich production on a night when Hofmann’s tenor was in better form. Meier offers a respectably vocalized, tasteful temptress without much histrionic distinction. Estes’ smooth Amfortas misses the essential spiritual anguish. Sotin’s purling Gurnemanz lacks dramatic focus, but Mazura’s incisive Klingsor stirs the senses. The clunking stage noises are only mildly intrusive.


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