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Thread: Featured CD : Wagner : Parsifal highlights

  1. #1
    Moderator Duncan Glenday's Avatar
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    Featured CD : Wagner : Parsifal highlights

    Credit for this featured CD : hippypants

    Based on a CD received from the collection bequeathed to Progressive Ears by Chris Buckley (Winkersnuff)

    hippypants's comments:


    Artist name: Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
    CD Title: Parsifal highlights CD 5 on Decca. James Levine (conductor)

    I have many classical CDs, but didn't have any Wagner. This is CD 5 of a box set. I've heard some of Richard Wagner's pieces, but mostly his Ring cycle or Der Ring des Nibelungen. It's a rousing score, but not my cup of tea. Some might remember it from movies like The Birth of A Nation, Apocalypse Now, The Blues Brothers or even the Bugs Bunny cartoon, What's Opera, Doc? It's pretty famous in that regard.

    Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theater director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Generally establishing himself in the romantic period. (Wikipedia)

    Ultimate Wagner, Parsifal highlights on CD5, however, is not the rousing, epic score like the Ring cycle, and I can appreciate that. It's more sedate and somber in tone. There are some vocals though not overbearing, and a chorus as well. They add to the dimension of the piece.

    Parsifal is an opera in three acts based on a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail (12th century). Wagner conceived the work in April 1857, but did not finish it until 25 years later. It was his last completed opera. Wagner became interested in Asian philosophies, especially Buddhism. Out of this interest came Die Sieger (The Victors, 1856), a sketch Wagner wrote for an opera based on a story from the life of Buddha. The themes which were later explored in Parsifal of self-renunciation, reincarnation, compassion, and even exclusive social groups. (Wikipedia)

    All in all Ultimate Wagner, Parsifal highlights will be a nice addition to my classical collection. It's complex enough to hear over and over again, and one I look forward to exploring further. My thanks and remembrance to Chris Buckley (Winkersnuff) for passing it on to me.
    Regards,

    Duncan

  2. #2
    Subterranean Tapir Hobo Chang Ba's Avatar
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    I suspect this one won't make it very far.

    This is not a Wagner I'm familiar with I'm afraid.
    My favorite fortune cookie read: "The only way to be successful on the internet is the keep the assholes preventing valuable discussion and eliminate the discussion itself."

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  3. #3
    Jazzbo manqué Mister Triscuits's Avatar
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    Parsifal is an opera in three acts based on a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival)
    Nobody knew how to spell in those days.
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    The first opera me and my brother went to was at the metropolitan opera house in New York City was Parsifal conducted by James Levine. I wouldn’t recommend your first opera experience to be a Wagner opera. 6 hours later we were exhausted and had a 3 hour drive home.

    But Parsifal is one of my all time favorite operas. It’s magical spiritual and mesmerizing. I have 6 different versions. Karajan and the Berlin Philharmoniker is gorgeous and James Levine also does a masterful job.

  5. #5
    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Well written review Hippypants!
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

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    Well I got Disc #4 of the same Wagner set. Highlights of the Mastersingers of Nuremburg. So I figured I'd keep this thread going with my observations rather than to have a new thread.

    I had never heard of this opera before, no idea what it's about.* But I have now spun all 77 minutes of it and found it very enjoyable.

    Some epic instrumental symph compositions that to me sound more modern than the mid-1800s. If you played one of them for me without my knowing the composer I might have guessed Korngold.

    In between there are several lieder. Boisterous male vocals, and beautiful female vocals. And a good rousing chorus here and there.

    Big thanks to Chris (through Duncan) for turning me on to something I would have probably never listened to otherwise...

    * I checked about the story. Mastersingers were tradespeople in the Renaissance era who basically did music as a hobby but took it very very seriously. Seems like the opera was a sitcom about the rivalries and jealousies and romantic interests of these singers.

  7. #7
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Those Decca 5 CD sets aren't a bad way to get acquainted with the classics. All feature major orchestras, conductors, and soloists. I picked up the Brahms set for under ten dollars. I couldn't be bothered with Wagner's music for years but once I started to seriously listen to the music I got hooked. Parsifal has its detractors complaining of excessive length and dull sections but I enjoy the whole thing. That Decca box also includes some music from Tristan und Isolde which contains some of the greatest music I've ever heard in the prelude.

  8. #8
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Wagner is amazing. But he's long winded and you need serious patience. But what's more "prog" than a 16 hour opera divided into four parts that took 25 years to write? Parsifal was his final opera and the prelude is worth hearing alone.

  9. #9
    Member hippypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    Well written review Hippypants!
    Thanks. I'll try to do reviews, some shorter than others, on all the CDs I received.

  10. #10
    Member hippypants's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StarThrower View Post
    Those Decca 5 CD sets aren't a bad way to get acquainted with the classics. All feature major orchestras, conductors, and soloists.
    Good to know, I should check into them further.

  11. #11
    Has anyone tackled Alex Ross's "Wagnerism"? I made the long march through this forest of scholarship and research and of course then found Wagner everywhere. Start with his amazingly great book "The Rest is Noise", then head for Wagner if you dare...

    David

  12. #12
    Member chalkpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vndrgrf View Post
    Has anyone tackled Alex Ross's "Wagnerism"? I made the long march through this forest of scholarship and research and of course then found Wagner everywhere. Start with his amazingly great book "The Rest is Noise", then head for Wagner if you dare...

    David
    No but its been on my radar. I did enjoy 'Wagner Without Fear' by William Berger. Its a great read and covers some of his life along with all of the great operas. If I had a minor issue: the print quality sort of sucks - not sure if it was just my copy?

  13. #13
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    The Derek Watson biography is worth picking up. It clears up a lot of the myths and legends. Many created by Wagner himself.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by chalkpie View Post
    Wagner is amazing. But he's long winded and you need serious patience.
    The marvellous Mark Twain, after attending the Bayreuth festival, observed: "Wagner has some great moments, but some miserable half hours." And also: "Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

    As a Wagner fan, I can admit that Twain has points in both of those statements. There are passages in some of the operas - especially the later ones - that seem to go on and on and on and. And Wagner was a revoultionary whose operas are full of great ideas, not all of which are really evident in the final product.

    But they will take my Furtwangler set of the Ring only from my cold dead hands ... and possibly not even then.
    Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!

  15. #15
    Member StarThrower's Avatar
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    Lohengrin is shorter, and full of beautiful music. I like the 1962 live recording by Sawallisch. And the studio account by Kempe.

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