Weber: Der Freischütz

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Weber
LABELS: DG Double
WORKS: Der Freischütz
PERFORMER: Eberhard Wächter, Albrecht Peter, Irmgard Seefried, Rita Streich, Kurt Böhme, Richard HolmBavarian RSO & Chorus/Eugen Jochum
CATALOGUE NO: 439 717-2 ADD Reissue
Weber’s Gothic masterpiece contains some of the finest tunes of all German opera; in the notorious ‘Wolf’s Glen’ scene, you sense it is not just magic bullets that are being cast, but half the Ring as well.

Advertisement

Carlos Kleiber’s DG recording, with Gundula Janowitz and the Dresden Staatskapelle both on stunning form, is the performance to have if you can afford it. Colin Davis’s mid-price Philips version has a slightly more seized-up feel; there is also a sparkling Keilberth team on EMI. This Jochum reading in many respects set the pace for Kleiber to follow. Though spoken passages are crystal clear, there are considerable sound drawbacks elsewhere, especially in upper registers. Such reservations might be set aside, however, if you treat this 1960 version as the distinctive historic recording that it is.

Eugen Jochum’s pacings, similar to Kleiber’s overall, at times allow more space for the music or singers to breathe: there is more dignity, if less wizardry. Where Kleiber twirls, Jochum waltzes. Weber’s gorgeous instrumentation is well aired, and Jochum’s singers – notably Böhme’s commanding Kaspar – have much to commend them; Holm’s Max sounds a bit Kasparish himself. Of the rest, Wächter’s Ottokar is best focused.

Advertisement

One misses Kleiber’s more garish ‘effects’ and loathsome, oily Samiel, but Weber’s music has to do the work instead. His savage accelerando is in as good hands as any with Jochum. Roderic Dunnett