LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Der Freischütz
PERFORMER: Christian Gerhaher, Friedemann Röhlig, Petra-Maria Schnitzer, Johanna Stojkovic, Georg Zeppenfeld, Christoph Prégardien; WDR Cologne Radio Chorus, WDR Cappella Coloniensis/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77536 2
Weber’s masterpiece is no stranger to the recording studio, but finding an ideal version on disc is far from simple. Closest in spirit to this first recording on period instruments is Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s recent account with the Berlin Philharmonic and an outstanding cast led by the Agathe of Luba Orgonasova, but it is compromised in places by the conductor’s eccentricities. Which means that, although it was recorded more than 40 years ago, nothing captures the essence of German Romanticism better than the old Joseph Keilberth set with the unsurpassed Elisabeth Grümmer as Agathe. Not least because of their sound quality, these new Bruno Weil discs may give the greatest listening pleasure, and they boast a cast of ideally fresh voices. But this ‘Freeshooter’ shoots itself in the foot by scrapping the dialogue and replacing it with a narration devised as monologues for the ‘Black Huntsman’ Samiel, written and spoken by Steffen Kopetzky. The narration turns Samiel into a dominant Mephisto-like figure and is especially out of place on an otherwise ‘authentic’ document.
The vivid playing Weil draws points up the originality of the score, and all the ensembles are lively. As Agathe, Petra-Maria Schnitzer gives a performance of shining purity, with a lovely ‘Leise, leise’ and thoughtful ‘Und ob die Wolke’. The delightful Aennchen of Johanna Stojkovic is a perfect foil. Christoph Prégardien caresses Max’s lines like a Lieder singer, yet also has the right sense of drama, and Georg Zeppenfeld is a formidable but not exaggerated Kaspar. Highly recommended – you can always programme out the narration.