Richard Wagner: Parsifal Alexander Jacob, piano Richard Kleinmichel, piano transcription Numen Media, 2015
Played with a gentle interpretation of Wagner's bombastic style, Richard Wagner: Parsifal shows pianist Alexander Jacob converting epic Teutonic opera music into a gentle ambiance which peaks in mesmerizing renditions of classic themes, avoiding repetition by carefully texturing different motifs into a gentle background sound that insinuates itself into consciousness so deftly that without drawing attention to it, it takes over like soundtrack music to the life of the listener, bringing out all in Wagner that is evocative of the challenges and heights of life.
Converting from full orchestra and voice, this piano score avoids rendering the music simplistic as a soundtrack might have done, and preserves the complex interweaving of melodies that tells the story in each of the nine scenes or transitions rendered here. Smaller themes become jazz-like background riffs which expand into vision and then rise to full power, and epic themes appear only when the groundwork has been set, making this a subtle infiltration of musical ideas through a pleasant, almost innocent backdrop.
Kleinmichel's score preserves what is most powerful about Wagner, which is his theatrical ability to pile motifs onto one another like a well-crafted poem, creating scenes of unforgettable richness and clarity. Jacob tackles the keys with confidence and avoids the technique-heavy "overplaying" which is unfortunately so common in contemporary classical music. For new listeners to Wagner, Richard Wagner: Parsifal provides an excellent compact introduction, and longtime fans will appreciate its tribute to the original and depth of nuance.