OP2164. PARSIFAL, Live Performance, 1960, w.Knappertsbusch Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Hans Beirer, Thomas Stewart, David Ward, Josef Greindl, Gustav Neidlinger, Régine Crespin, Gundula Janowitz, etc. (E.U.) 4-Myto 00279. Currently out-of-stock. - 0801439902794
“Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned and beloved conductors of the German Romantic repertoire in the middle twentieth century. Although he grew up playing and loving music, his parents objected to the notion of a musical career. Thus Knappertsbusch studied philosophy at Bonn University. In 1908, however, he entered the Cologne Conservatory and took conducting courses with Fritz Steinbach.
Knappertsbusch began his career as a staff conductor at the Mülheim-Ruhr Theater (1910-1912) and then as opera director in his home town of Elberfeld. Equally important to his development were his forays into the temple of Wagnerism. He spent several summers as an assistant to director Siegfried Wagner and conductor Hans Richter at the Bayreuth Festival and took part in the Netherlands Wagner Festivals in 1913 and 1914. After the end of World War I Knappertsbusch worked in Dessau and Leipzig, and in 1922 he was asked to succeed Bruno Walter as music director of the Munich Opera.
Knappertsbusch's personality was easygoing; he was notably free of the restlessness and undue ambition that often attended a rising career such as his. He was content mainly to stay in Munich, with the result that he never became as well-known as many of his colleagues. In any case, Munich fully appreciated Knappertsbusch's talents, and he was named conductor for life. However, he refused several demands made by the Nazis and was fired from his lifetime post in 1936. He conducted a memorable SALOME in Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937, and made some guest appearances elsewhere in Germany, but was content to maintain a low profile during the Nazi regime. He left Germany after the Munich debacle, settling in Vienna where he frequently conducted the Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera. Knappertsbusch's career was again affected by the Nazis when Germany took over Austria over in 1938, but he was mostly able to steer clear of trouble.
Knappertsbusch gained a reputation for broad, magisteral performances of Bruckner, and more and more seemed to emerge as the representative of the traditional style of unhurried Wagner performances. He was famous for disliking rehearsals, often cutting them short; his orchestral players maintained that this was not the result of laziness, but of complete security in his interpretation and trust of the players. His performances were therefore not rigidly preconceived, but instead had a remarkable freshness and spontaneity.
When the Bayreuth Festival reopened in 1951, Knappertsbusch worked closely with Wieland Wagner on orchestral matters (though the conductor was known to dislike the director's spare, revolutionary stage productions). Perhaps Knappertsbusch's most notable recording is his stereo account of Wagner's PARSIFAL from the Bayreuth stage.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
"Thomas Stewart, was an American baritone who was renowned for his portrayals of Wotan, Amfortas and other central Wagnerian roles and who was heard frequently at Bayreuth and the Metropolitan Opera....his commanding quality came less from the size or mettle of his voice, which was surprisingly lyrical for a Wagner baritone, but from his imaginative approach to his roles. He gave his characters a measure of warmth and expressivity that made them seem complex and surprising."
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Sept., 2006
“Josef Greindl was considered as one of the greatest Wagner singers of his time. He had a powerfully expressive bass voice, whose clarity of declamation exhibited his stylistic projecting ability. Josef Greindl was equally convincing in dramatic and Buffo rôles. He also excelled in concert singing.”
- Aryeh Oron
"Crespin was the greatest singer to come out of France in the past half century….She expressed herself through words rather than through obvious histrionic gestures, and few artists enunciated so clearly, in any language – English and German included. Her French, of course, was perfect, so lucidly projected that the soprano had every right to expect her listeners to understand her. She never felt the need to exaggerate….Flickers of nuance are always sufficient for the intelligent operagoer."
- Ralph V. Lucano, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 2007
"[Crespin] was surely one of the greatest French singers of the 20th Century; in fact…one of the great singers on records, one whose art goes well beyond the merely vocal….Beyond its size, [her voice] had a beautiful shimmer about it, a glowing quality present in all registers."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, March/April, 2005
"Régine Crespin, the French operatic soprano and later mezzo-soprano, one of the most important vocal artists to emerge from France in the decades after World War II was widely admired for the elegance, warmth and subtlety of her singing, especially in the French and German operatic repertories. Early on, the natural carrying power of her voice seemed to point to a career as a dramatic soprano. Indeed, she made her 1950 début at the regional company in Mulhouse, France, singing Elsa in Wagner’s LOHENGRIN. Yet Ms Crespin’s singing was imbued with nuanced phrasing, telling attention to text, creamy lyricism and lovely high pianissimos. While she had an enveloping voice, she always seemed to keep something in reserve, leading some listeners to sense a touch too much French restraint. But most opera buffs valued Ms Crespin for the effortless richness, lyrical nobility and subtle colorings of her singing. She was also a sophisticated actress whose Junoesque presence commanded attention. Ms Crespin’s Metropolitan Opera début came in 1962 as the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER, directed by the soprano Lotte Lehmann, who had been the most renowned interpreter of the role. Reviewing Ms Crespin’s portrayal, the New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote that she gave ‘a simply beautiful performance’ enriched with ‘all kinds of delicate shading’. But when she let out her full voice, he added, it ‘soared over the orchestra and all over the house — big, confident and beautiful’. In 1967 she sang Sieglinde to Birgit Nilsson’s Brünnhilde at the Met, with Herbert von Karajan conducting a production that he also directed. Reviewing that performance for The Times of London, the critic Conrad L. Osborne wrote that ‘Nilsson and Crespin spurring each other on make for the sort of thing one remembers with a chill for years’. In later life Ms Crespin won wide recognition as a voice teacher. During some 1995 master classes at the Mannes College of Music in New York, the students were enraptured not only by her insightful critiques, but by her insider tales about opera stars."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 July, 2007