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Weber: Der Freischütz
Carl Maria von Weber, Carlos Kleiber, Dresden Staatskapelle
Weber: Der Freischütz
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #2

Der Freischütz is one of the great milestones in the history of opera. The resounding success of its premiere in 1821 practically made it a manifesto for German Romantic opera, one that would become a significant forma...  more »


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Der Freischütz is one of the great milestones in the history of opera. The resounding success of its premiere in 1821 practically made it a manifesto for German Romantic opera, one that would become a significant formative influence on Wagner. Although it has its roots in the Singspiel tradition exemplified by Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Der Freischütz cut new ground with its potent mixture of supernatural elements, dreams, folk melodies, evocations of nature, and symphonic tone painting. Here, von Weber exploited his brilliant orchestral imagination--using, for example, carefully divided string tremolos and a gleaming choir of four horns--to maximum effect. This legendary recording from 1973 was Carlos Kleiber's first studio project, and the scrupulous attention he lavished on the score resulted in an interpretation that continues to sound bold, fresh, and authoritative. The Dresden Staatskapelle plays in top form, whether in tenderly sprung wind solos or in the truly spooky atmospherics of the famous Wolf's Glen scene. Peter Schreier's dark, pungent tenor is something of an acquired taste, but he gives fervent voice to the despair of hunter/protagonist Max. Gundula Janowitz sings with stirring beauty and enriches the two-dimensional character of Max's beloved Agathe with remarkable depth, revealing both her innocence and her agonized foreboding. And Theo Adam delivers a thoroughly spiteful, loathesome vocal portrait of the nefarious Kaspar, whose pact with the devil Samiel goes awry. For a work that is not performed nearly as often as it deserves to be, this recording is essential. --Thomas May

CD Reviews

Expectations too high
Josh Sosland | Kansas City, MO USA | 10/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Having read the great reviews and loving the opera, I bought this recording with great anticipation. My reaction after listening was mixed. The positives have been described by others. And there are many moments that are absolutely dazzling. What bothered me was the way Kleiber seems to conducting almost frantically. For instance, the Waltz (which you can listen to on the sample) is played at a breakneck speed. It didn't conjure in my mind townspeople dancing into the tavern. The pacing made me think Kleiber was being almost dismissive of the music. At the start of the wolf's glen scene, the ghosts don't seem spooky, they seem shrill. I would encourage people to be wary when recordings are "anointed" as this one seems to have been. I couldn't argue with someone calling this recording "brilliant," but its idiosyncracies would make me unwilling to describe it as "definitive.""
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 03/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Balancing brilliant value in performance and recording against infuriating lack of commentary in the liner, I still have to give this great set the full 5 stars.

The performance is 30 years old now, but the recording at its frequent best would draw high praise even today. The quality is not quite 100% consistent - now and again passages for full orchestra lack the spaciousness and depth that are so remarkable at many other points, and there is just a hint of distortion on Janowitz's high notes in her big scena in Act II, but these are quibbles. Far more representative of the general proficiency in the recording is the wonderful romantic aura round the even more wonderful horn playing near the start, the really terrific sense of eerie menace in the wolves' glen (with the full terror of Samiel reserved for the end) and the perfect fidelity given in general to the singing, both solo and chorus. Both Janowitz and Mathis sing like angels from on high, the huntsmen in chorus are the nimblest and most accomplished such a body that I ever heard, and the orchestral tone is gorgeous too. All this demanded full justice from the recording staff, and they have done it proud.

I personally go along with Kleiber's handling of the score in practically every way. When steadiness and calm are called for we get them - the slow start to the overture could hardly be better, nor could Agathe's great cavatina in Act III, sublimely done by Janowitz. However this reading has a spring in its step, and that as much as anything is what I love about it. It helps, obviously, to have virtuoso performers, and I have already drawn attention to the chorus in that respect. For all the Gothic shivers and goings-on, this opera is full of joie de vivre, or whatever the German is for that. Like Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Bizet, Weber was taken away from us too soon, another sacrifice to consumption. No composer's music could be less suggestive of approaching death that his. His orchestral scoring alone, deeply admired by no less a master of that art than Berlioz, is a celebration of life by itself. His melodic gift is one of the greatest there has ever been, stronger in my view than Mendelssohn's and up there with that of Berlioz and that of Verdi himself. This is what an adequate realisation of this work must bring out, not just the picturesque horrors. On this set you will hear some genuinely spontaneous-sounding laughter for one thing, and the true and vital gusto from the peasants, huntsmen and the rest of them. Obviously `characterisation' in a lightweight and fairy-tale parallel like this to the Faust theme is broad-brush, but where this score excels is in its varied and intensely dramatic delineation of situations. This is something else the conductor must present with the utmost clarity and vividness, and I can hardly imagine it done better than it is done here. And a special mention must be made of the magnificent realisation of the scene with the hermit (der fromme Klausner for initiates) -- credit even-handedly to Kleiber and to Franz Crass.

I love dear Schumann and I love his Manfred, especially in the realisation by Beecham, but I could only sigh to think of what Weber might have done with that theme. We should be grateful for what we've got, I suppose. The entire cast cover themselves with glory, but pride of place goes to the two sopranos. Peter Schreier is what I sometimes think of as a `mezzo-tenor', something like Mark Padmore. Theo Adam is a Wotan and a Sachs that I particularly like because of my own personal interpretation of those roles, but even those who think him lightweight in Wagner surely must have no such reservations about his Kaspar. The men are all fine, but it's the women here who make the really big impression - them and the orchestra. Not to mention the chorus and the conductor. Nor do I overlook the recording personnel."
A little fast, but thrilling
Andrew Mayzak | Seattle, WA USA | 08/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I love this opera and this recording is truly first rate when it comes to the acting and the expressiveness of the singers. It is a litle too fast for me, though. The speedy tempo makes the Wolf's Glen scene truly spooky and the it tends to move the rest of the score along in some of the slower parts. The problem is that notes are lost in the process. Weber wrote into this opera some beautiful orchestral nuances that disappear as everyone seems to hop on the expressway and rushes to finish out the score. The EMI recording with Birgit Nilsson and Nicholai Gedda under Heger is much slower, filling out the richness of Weber's Bel Canto sound, but losing some of the punch that this recording has. I have yet to find a recording that is slow when it needs to be slow and fast when it needs to be fast. Everyone seems to take the entire opera at the initial tempo with little variability.In the end, DG's recording comes up first because it makes your heart pound. Janowitz and Schreier are second to none in their expression and vocal acting and the Wolf's Glen is a rushing mass of terror. All in all, a good recording with everyone in top form."