Weber: Der Freischütz

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Weber
LABELS: DG Originals
WORKS: Der Freischütz
PERFORMER: Gundula Janowitz, Edith Mathis, Theo Adam, Peter Schreier, Siegfried Vogel, Bernd Weikl; Leipzig Radio Chorus, Dresden Staatskapelle/Carlos Kleiber
CATALOGUE NO: 457 736-2 ADD Reissue (1973)
For sheer thrills, no one has yet outshone Kleiber’s swashbuckling 1973 Der Freischütz. True, for scrupulous textual honesty, there are strong rivals. On Teldec, Harnoncourt underscores Weber’s brilliant instrumental detail, and benefits from not just Orgonasova’s Agathe and Salminen’s brutalising Kaspar, but Cachemaille’s Kuno, Schäfer’s Ännchen and Moll’s Hermit.

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Some earlier versions have weathered particularly well. Jochum (DG budget price) allows Weber’s miraculous orchestration to ratchet up tension, free of dazzling ‘effects’ (unlike Kubelík/Decca). Keilberth’s 1958 EMI reading, with Prey and Frick, was a yardstick, sharing with Furtwängler’s cough-ridden Salzburg performances arguably the best Agathe of all:Elisabeth Grümmer.

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But if you can hang in with his tempi (contrast Davis’s granite Philips version), Kleiber win hands down. The Staatskapelle is putty in his fingers. Janowitz’s melting Agathe, Schreier’s assertive Max, Mathis and Adam remain my dream cast. Roderic Dunnett