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Weber: Overtures; Der Freischütz – excerpts

Konzerthausorchester Berlin/Christoph Eschenbach et al (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
ALPHA744_Weber

Weber
Der Freischütz – excerpts; Der Gerrscher der Geister Overture; Oberon Overture; Konzertstück
Anna Prohaska (soprano), Martin Helmchen (piano); Konzerthausorchester Berlin/Christoph Eschenbach
Alpha Classics ALPHA744   53:33 mins

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This recording marks the 200th anniversary of the inauguration of Berlin’s Konzerthaus (or Königliches Schauspielhaus, as it was then called) on 26 May 1821, and of the premiere of Weber’s Der Freischütz which took place there barely three weeks later. Christoph Eschenbach conducts a fine performance of that opera’s overture, though with the voltage perhaps a little low in the agitated main Allegro section; and Anna Prohaska sings Ännchen’s two light-hearted arias – one of them in polonaise style, the other featuring an ornate viola solo – attractively enough.

Less familiar today, though it was once a popular display piece, is the single-movement Konzertstück for piano and orchestra. Martin Helmchen gives a more rhapsodic and Romantic performance than did Ronald Brautigam on another recent all-Weber disc (see June issue), though it’s a pity the pianissimo initial entry of the orchestral strings isn’t sufficiently hushed.

In these performances with the admirable Konzerthaus Orchestra, what emerges above all is the uniquely glowing sound of Weber’s orchestration, with its very special use of horns and winds. This as true of the forest murmurs in the Freischütz overture’s slow introduction, as it is of the magical fairies’ music at the start of the overture to Oberon – a piece that decisively influenced the famous Midsummer Night’s Dream overture Mendelssohn composed just a few months after the premiere of Weber’s opera.

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Misha Donat