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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hans Knappertsbusch (12 March 1888 – 25 October 1965)


A name that will be forever synonymous with the music of Richard Wagner is that of Hans Knappertsbusch.  Known for his broad tempi and ability to shape the score through large musical arcs, he was instrumental in the establishment of the New Bayreuth in 1951 and one of their chief conducting talents during the 50's and up until his death in 1965.

Knappertsbusch's earlier career saw him perform in Germany during the Third Reich though he was never a member of the Nazi Party or liked it seems by Hitler.  As a result he spent the war years in Austria where he established his lifelong association with the Vienna Philharmonic.  He recorded extensively and much of his legacy has been rereleased on CD. Of his recordings perhaps the most famous are his two Parsifals from Bayreuth, from 1951 and 1962 and the complete Der Ring Des Nibelungen from 1956.  There now exist to date, 11 recorded Parsifal performances from Bayreuth conducted by the Maestro from 1951 to 1964.

As a musical tribute I've chosen a filmed concert performance of Act 1 from Die Walkure with Claire Watson, Fritz Uhl and Joseph Greindl as soloists, with the Vienna Philharmonic from May 21, 1963.  This film captures perfectly the spaciousness of Kna's reading, slow, grand and yet capable of great tension when required.  A fitting tribute for the Maestro's birthday.

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