OP2653. PARSIFAL, Live Performance, 1962, w.Knappertsbusch Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Jess Thomas, George London, Hans Hotter, Martti Talvela, Gustav Neidlinger, Irene Dalis, Gundula Janowitz, Anja Silja, etc. (Germany) 4-Philips 289 464 756, Boxed Set Edition w.libretto-brochure. Final Sealed Copy! - 028946475621
“This isn't merely one of Philips' great recordings but also one of the greatest sets of all time. Every time one returns to it, its inspiration and distinction seem to have been enhanced. There have been many fine recordings of this great Eastertide opera, but none has so magnificently managed to capture the power, the spiritual grandeur, the human frailty and the almost unbearable beauty of the work as Hans Knappertsbusch. This live recording has a cast that has few equals. Hotter is superb, fleshing out Gurnemanz with a depth of insight that has never been surpassed. London's Amfortas captures the frightening sense of impotence and anguish with painful directness, while Thomas' Parsifal grows as the performance progresses and is no mean achievement. Dalis may lack that final degree of sensuousness, but she provides a fine interpretation nevertheless. Throughout the work, Knappertsbusch exercises a quite un-equalled control over the proceedings; it's a fine testament to a great conductor. The Bayreuth acoustic is well reproduced, and this record is a profound and moving experience.”
- GRAMOPHONE, 2008
“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 [above]from the Bayreuth stage.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“In the many performances I have appeared in, there were many wonderful colleagues who had me in raptures. There were those with magnificent voices, or great musicians, wonderful actors or great personalities. But George London had it ALL. He was as impressive on stage as he was the wonderful colleague and friend in his private life.”
- Birgit Nilsson, as quoted in Leonardo A. Ciampa’s THE TWILIGHT OF BELCANTO, p.130
“George London was a dramatic and very expressive singer. In many rôles he sang like a demonic panther with a sound of purple-black in color. London was a singer favoring the drama in a piece, varying color to suggest shifts of mood. His acting on stage was described as overwhelming. The special magnetism of this artist is documented on his great recordings. Every rôle he sang was sung with utmost expression and unbelievable commitment, truly a singing-actor!”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“With a powerful bass-baritone of granite-like density and sharply honed dramatic instincts, Gustav Neidlinger was the foremost Alberich of his time. His realization of Wagner's misshapen creature had both the fearsome strength for the curse in DAS RHEINGOLD and the pathos that glinted through the crusty exterior to make Alberich a tragic character in SIEGFRIED and DIE GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. While Neidlinger capably essayed many other rôles during his long career, Alberich is the rôle that remains indelibly linked to his name.
After studies at the conservatory in Frankfurt am Mainz, Neidlinger made his début at Mainz in 1929. From 1931 to 1934, he was a member of the company in Mainz before transferring his activities to Plauen in 1934. In 1936, he began a long association with Hamburg, remaining with that company until 1950. During the 1950s, his career moved outward to include many of Europe's première venues. Two years after joining the Stuttgart Opera in 1950, he made his Bayreuth Festival début where his rôles embraced Alberich, Telramund, Kurwenal, Klingsor, and even Hans Sachs. He remained on the Bayreuth roster for 23 years. La Scala heard him for the first time in 1953, and beginning in 1956, he became a frequent visitor to the Wiener Staatsoper. In 1963, he appeared at Covent Garden as Telramund, winning further respect from an English public already familiar of his recorded Alberich (with Solti). Neidlinger appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for one season only, presenting his Alberich to New York audiences in 1972. The previous year, he had impressed the Chicago public with his RHEINGOLD Alberich, an interpretation histrionically frightening and vocally undiminished. During the final half-decade of his career, he appeared almost exclusively in Europe. In addition to his Alberich, recorded live at Bayreuth under both Clemens Krauss and Karl Böhm and in the studio under Solti, Neidlinger left a snarling Pizzaro on disc. His sturdy Kurwenal was captured live at Bayreuth. Neidlinger was made a German Kammersänger in 1952.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com