Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thielemann and Parsifal

This new Parsial on DG is a truly visionary performance by Christian Thielemann who never fails to amaze. His reading is both pointillist in his illumination of score’s mosaic of tone colors and, at the same time, acutely contrapuntally aware of the music’s complex layers. The set’s only drawback is the unusual amount of stage noise that not only has been allowed to exist, but has been weirdly amplified rather than digitally squelched. Perhaps DG’s engineers wanted an “Amfortas Effect” by lancing this ethereal performance with a shaft of the palpably metallic. What are those sounds? (on-stage swords?, an hare Krishna procession? ). For Parsifal fans like me, who love to bathe in the grandeur of the bell-brass-timpani processions of Act I, the shock of hearing “kling soars,” like so many pieces of fallen silverware, is irritating enough to retire the entire set on a first hearing. I’ve since gotten over this distraction, but it has taken time and patience. As to the singers, this set offers an unconventional package. Placido Domingo, in spite of his odd accent, is a heartfelt and satisfying Parsifal. Throughout the four hours, the other singers give a fresh perspective to the expected role casting. One never finds Franz-Josef Selig’s Gurnemanz tedious or terminally vatic. His varied and athletic voice has a light upper register and an affectingly rich lower one. Waltraud Meier’s Kundry is also full of surprises. Unexpected tenderness, and, turning on a dime, hysteria. In all, one never thinks of this Parsifal as the sanctimonious German Easter Parade that one sometimes hears. Thielemann effectively revitalizes this work without sacrificing an ounce of it’s rich beauty. Keep this set with your Knappertsbusch and your Boulez.


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