Maximilian Schmitt, Polina Pasztircsák, Kateryna Kasper, Dimitry Ivashchenko; Zurich Sing-Akademie; Freiburger Barockorchester/René Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902700.01 135:46 mins (2 discs)
No sharpshooter’s shot signals the start of René Jacobs’s Der Freischütz: rather, the all-wise Hermit is visited by Agathe and given white roses to protect her from evil, with Jacobs borrowing music from the overture’s Adagio section for an opening scene that Weber himself discarded. Elsewhere Jacobs resurrects Kuno’s rejected song about the history of the shooting trial, cunningly fitting it to a Schubert drinking song from the singspiel Des Teufels Lustschloss. Thus an opera that has seemed to embody ideas about German national identity after Napoleon, notably the importance of community, becomes a Christian struggle between the forces of good and evil. The ‘Black Huntsman’, Samiel, is ever present.
If it all convinces that’s because Jacobs has an absolute instinct for Weber’s score. The horns of the Freiburger Barockorchester are almost a character in their own right in this Romantic opera about huntsmen and the forest, and the woodwind – notably Weber’s beloved clarinets – near perfect.
Not always so the singers. Maximilian Schmitt’s Max is perhaps a little light of tone. His Agathe, Polina Pasztircsák, is guileless vocally, handling the climax at the end of ‘Leise, Leise’ thrillingly. However, Kateryna Kasper’s Ännchen is more a woman of the world ready to advance a resonant lower register at the hint of a husband. Dimitry Ivashchenko’s saturnine Kaspar has a real swagger to the voice. But it’s the Zurich Singakademie who take the laurels as boisterous huntsmen and gleeful villagers.