Hans Knappertsbusch
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
5 August 1954
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
AmfortasHans Hotter
TiturelTheo Adam
GurnemanzJosef Greindl
ParsifalWolfgang Windgassen
KlingsorGustav Neidlinger
KundryMartha Mödl
GralsritterEugene Tobin
Theo Adam

Among the Bayreuth Festival Parsifal recordings (official and otherwise) under Hans Knappertsbusch’s direction, this 1954 go-round is closer to the conductor’s weighty 1951 commercially issued set than his fleeter, more transparent 1962 remake. While Decca’s 1951 sonics convey a wider dynamic range and more three-dimensional sense of Bayreuth’s unique acoustic, 1954 offers marginally superior orchestral execution all around (and a more incisive Act 2 prelude) plus more dramatic contrast and vocal color from Wolfgang Windgassen and Martha Mödl in the second act’s extended Kundry/Parsifal duet (although Mödl’s actually in fresher voice three years earlier).

Hans Hotter’s keen attention to words and commanding vocal presence graces Amfortas’ anguished outpourings, while Josef Greindl’s Gurnemanz proves rounder and more responsive than in his 1960 Bayreuth Parsifal, and Gustav Neidlinger’s dark, snarling Klingsor remains as characterful as ever. It’s interesting how the young Theo Adam colors his voice to suggest rather than match Titurel’s aged, infirm character. Compared to the languid 1951 Flowermaidens, 1954’s batch seems relatively listless and wobbly until their extended parting comments when Madame Kundry bids them to disperse. My Kna/Parsifal preference remains the conductor’s valedictory 1964 version featuring Hotter’s masterful Gurnemanz and Jon Vickers’ intense portrayal of the title role, with the present recording not too far from the top. Not essential, but well worth the attention of Wagner enthusiasts.

Artistic Quality: 8
Sound Quality: 6

Jed Distler

User Rating
Media Type/Label
GM, Archipel, Seven Seas, Line, OOA, OD
Technical Specifications
530 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 955 MByte (flac)
Broadcast from the Bayreuth festival
A production by Wieland Wagner (1951)