Der Freischütz – excerpts
Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Johanni van Oostrum, Chiara Skerath, Christian Immler, Thorsten Grümbel, Daniel Schmutzhard; Accentus Choir; Insula Orchestra/Laurence Equilbey
Erato 9029510954 79:35 mins
The good news is that, played on original instruments by the Insula Orchestra, two centuries of varnish seem to have been dissolved away from Weber’s Romantic masterpiece, with the instrumentation coming up as bright as fresh paint. Horns strain at the leash to join the hunt, and the clarinet that’s introduces the great tune at the conclusion of the overture is as perky as a bird in spring.
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The not so good news is that this French production entirely sidesteps the original spoken dialogue. True, the text that tells us of Max’s flirtation with the devil to win the hand of Agathe is awkward literary carpentry, but this dialogue is integral to the work and recent recordings have succeeded in finding creative solutions to using it.
That said, there is some fine singing here from a younger cast. Stanislas de Barbeyrac is a wayward, lovelorn Max and properly lyrical in his Act I number ‘Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen’. And for once Agathe isn’t a soubrette with weightier vocal ambitions: the South African soprano Johanni van Oostrum is technically flawless in ‘Leise, leise fromme Weise’, from the dark rumbling strings that launch the aria to those bubbling horns at the end. Chiara Skerath is a knowing Ännchen; but surely Vladimir Baykov’s Kaspar ought to be truly scared in the Wolf’s Glen.
Purists may question Laurence Equilbey’s choice of tempos, but it does allow the listener to relish Weber’s compositional and dramatic gifts, even if this is only half of the opera that the composer intended.
Read more reviews of the latest Weber recordings