Music: Tops on the Classical Shelf

A maestro's mastery, a virtuoso's debut, afresh look at genius

Wagner: Parsifal (Tenor Peter Hofmann, Bass-Baritone José van Dam, Mezzo Dunja Vejzovic, Bass-Baritone Siegmund Nimsgern, Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic and Deutsche Oper Berlin Chorus; Deutsche Grammophon, five records). Wagner's last and most difficult music drama has not had a really satisfying recording—until now. Hofmann makes Parsifal both strong and guileless, the splendid Van Dam is an anguished Amfortas, and Nimsgern is an evil, but not inhuman Klingsor. Only Vejzovic, a screechy Kundry, is weak. The real stars are Karajan and...

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