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.
Gundula Janowitz (Agathe), Edith Mathis (Ännchen), Peter Schreier (Max), Theo Adam (Kaspar), Franz Crass (Hermit), Siegfried Vogel (Kuno), Bernd Weikl (Ottokar), Günther Leib (Kilian), Gerhard Paul (Zamiel)
Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, Carlos Kleiber
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“Carlos Kleiber's fine set of Der Freischütz earns reissue on CD for a number of reasons. One is the excellence of the actual recorded sound with a score that profits greatly from such attention.
Weber's famous attention to details of orchestration is lovingly explored by a conductor who has taken the trouble to go back to the score in manuscript and observe the differences between that and most of the published versions. So not only do we hear the eerie sound of low flute thirds and the subtle contrast of unmuted viola with fourpart muted violins in Agathe's 'Leise, leise', among much else, with a new freshness and point, but all the diabolical effects in the Wolf's Glen come up with a greater sense of depth, down to the grisliest detail. The beginning of the Overture, and the opening of the Wolf's Glen scene, steal upon us out of a primeval silence, as they should. All this would be of little point were the performance itself not of such interest. There's a good deal to argue about but this is because the performance is so interesting. Even if some of Kleiber's tempos are possibly unwise, they spring from a careful, thoughtful and musical mind.
The singing cast is excellent, with Gundula Janowitz an outstanding Agathe to a somewhat reflective Max from Peter Schreier, at his best when the hero is brought low by the devilish machinations; Edith Mathis is a pretty Aennchen, Theo Adam a fine, murky Caspar. The dialogue, spoken by actors, is slightly abbreviated and occasionally amended. Kleiber's reading produces much new insight to a magical old score.”