Weber: Der Freischütz

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Weber
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Der Freischütz
PERFORMER: Sharon Sweet, Ruth Ziesak, Peter Seiffert, Andreas Schmidt, Kurt RydlBerlin Radio Chorus, Deutsches SO, Berlin (RSO)/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62538 2 DDD
Musically this Freischütz aims high and sometimes misses the mark, but it is shot through with enough that is good that it cannot easily be dismissed, even with stiff competition from Keilberth’s classic 1959 account on EMI and Kleiber’s more probing 1973 version on DG. The chief glories are the resplendent playing of the Deutsches SO, Berlin, alive to every nuance of Weber’s colourful orchestration, and the dynamic conducting of Marek Janowski (even if the finale is too hard-pressed to act as a satisfactory peroration).

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Vocally the set is less consistent, though there are two outstanding contributions, both sung with a genuine feeling for melodic shape and verbal emphasis: Peter Seiffert’s sensitive, conscience-stricken Max and Ruth Ziesak’s delightfully pert Ännchen. The real disappointment is Sharon Sweet’s uncomfortable sounding and vibrato-ridden Agathe, a role clearly designed for a lighter voice but here given the full prima-donna treatment. The rest sing effectively if rather blandly (though Andreas Schmidt manages the high tessitura of Prince Ottokar without apparent effort) and deliver their dialogue with dramatic conviction. The acoustic is a touch over-reverberant, blunting the overall sense of theatricality. Antony Bye