Fritz Busch
Coro y Orquesta del Teatro Colón Buenos Aires
22 September 1936
Teatro Colón Buenos Aires
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
AmfortasMartial Singher
TiturelFred Destal
GurnemanzAlexander Kipnis
ParsifalRené Maison
KlingsorFritz Krenn
KundryMarjorie Lawrence
GralsritterHans Fleischer
Jorge Andronoff

This previously unreleased live broadcast transmission from the Teatro Colón on September 22, 1936 may be the earliest complete Parsifal extant. Its crowning glory lies in Alexander Kipnis’ extraordinary Gurnemanz, one of the singer’s most celebrated assumptions. If you can listen past the wildly fluctuating dynamic levels, hashy sound, and skewed balances (the bells in the Transformation Scene, however, boast remarkable presence), you’ll get a true sense of how Kipnis projected his sonorous, commanding bass across the footlights. As a result, his Good Friday Spell comes off with greater majesty and intensity than in his famous Bayreuth recording from eight years earlier.

You also can appreciate Martial Singher’s light yet beautifully focused baritone and effortless legato phrasing as Amfortas. Tenor René Maison and soprano Marjorie Lawrence generate such ardent drama in the extended Act 2 Parisifal-Kundry duet that you easily overlook their occasional inaccuracies. Despite the ill-tuned and rather provincial choral singing, Fritz Busch’s enlivening, disciplined, and flexible podium presence makes itself felt at all times. A release destined to entice Wagner connoisseurs.

Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 2

Jed Distler

Primitive sound, live-performance roughness, cuts and the use of multiple languages (the cast sings in German, the chorus in Italian) eliminate this newly unearthed 1936 Buenos Aires performance from serious consideration as a benchmark version. Nevertheless, it constitutes a significant addition to the Wagner discography. Its primary attraction is the Gurnemanz of Alexander Kipnis, whose 1927 Columbia recording from Bayreuth of the Good Friday scene is one of the greatest recorded Parsifal excerpts. Heard almost whole, Kipnis’s impersonation makes a towering impression: the combination of glamourously deep and vibrantly spinning sound, perceptive dramatic comprehension, and vivid if broadly Slavic diction elevates his performance above even the eloquent Gurnemanz portrayals of Ludwig Weber (Knappertsbusch) and Kurt Moll (Karajan). Kipnis’s colleagues, few of whom recorded any of Parsifal commercially, also offer worthy and welcome interpretations. Martial Singher, who did record the two monologues in French, endows Amfortas with dignified desperation, and Marjorie Lawrence sings with gleaming tone and forceful conviction, although her over-musical screams at the beginning of Act II underplay Kundry’s wild, tormented side. René Maison’s Parsifal is mostly well-shaded and deeply felt, though it is compromised at key moments (particularly ‘Nur eine Waffe taugt’) by feverishly precipitous tempi from Fritz Busch, whose work in the more devotional music – by contrast – is beautifully patient yet fervent. Knappertsbusch’s momentous intensity ultimately cuts deeper, and Barenboim offers a valid option if modern sound is a requirement, but anyone interested in Golden Age Wagner will be grateful for this inspiring performance.

David Breckbill

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Marston, OOA, HO
Get this Recording
Donate $5 to download flac
Technical Specifications
443 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 698 MiB (flac)
The chorus sings in Italian.
A production by Hans Busch