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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2013
Perhaps appropriately for an opera which concerns itself with the occult, "Der Freischuetz" does seem somewhat accursed in its recorded versions, all of which are flawed, one way or another. It's high time that that spell was broken, but, sadly, this recording isn't the one to achieve that breakthrough.

It's conducted by the late Sir Colin Davis, with Simon O'Neill as Max, Christine Brewer as Agathe and Sally Matthews as Aennchen. Brewer sings well, in general, although she does have a rather matronly tone. Sally Matthews, too, sounds a bit Wagnerian for her role; Edith Mathis (DG, Kleiber) sounded much more appropriately girlish, without losing any musical qualities. As the protagonist, O'Neill is tuneful, but not entirely ingratiating. Schreier (for Kleiber) is far better, as is Seiffert (Janowski). No-one on the present recording remotely matches Gundula Janowitz, who sings Kleiber's Agathe.

While I don't think that there is any problem with the orchestra here, I do feel that the conducting plods pretty dreadfully. Just about every other conductor of this music seems to have detected more subtlety than Davis. I wish I could be more positive about it, but I really can't. The recording doesn't even have an impressive range, so it compares unfavourably, not just with its digital rivals, but even with the 1970s Deutsche Grammophon recording. The Wolfsschlucht scene isn't very atmospheric, which is a bit fatal, since, despite its being central to the drama, this is possibly Weber's weakest music in the whole opera; it needs to have a bigger impact than it has here. The finale is largely well sung, allowing for some squawks by Brewer, reminding us, superfluously, that she isn't Janowitz, but the recording here, as elsewhere, is hopelessly devoid of depth.

The dialogue is abridged. That may seem no serious loss, since the libretto isn't exactly Shakespeare, but this convoluted plot makes even less sense without the spoken text.

Altogether, this is a pretty big disappointment. Neither of the principals really comes close to matching the best of the earlier performers in the same roles, although the Kaspar is both musically impressive and dramatically dark. The other soloists are inferior to their rivals. While the orchestra and chorus are very capable, they are let down by Jurassic standards of recording and conducting.

Kleiber remains the best buy, for the matchless Janowitz, but Janowski has the best Max, in Peter Seiffert, and is definitely worth hearing, too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2013
Weber's "Der Freischutz" is composer's most popular and opera. The opera included many popular themes: Max's aria (Durch die Wälder), lively ländler, Kaspar's song (Hier im ird'schen Jammerthal) and aria (Scweigh'!), Agathe's aria (Leise, leise, fromme Weise), the Wolf Glen's scene (second act's finale), folk song (Wir winder dir den Jungfernkranz) and huntsmen's chorus. I bought this record because it is Sir Colin Davis' last recording. This recording is made at the Barbican, London in April 2012. There are many good things:

1. Davis shows that he can dance; the first act's ländler is quite slow, but still brilliant.
2. The Wolf Glen's scene is brilliant: it begins with distant lightning and German dialogue is excellent (Samiel's voice is very frightening). Sadly, Kaspar's famous echo seem artificial (for example, when he shout "Eins!" (First), the "echo's voice" is different than Kaspar's voice (This is my opinion)).
3. Orchestra's balance is brilliant.

Christiane Brewer's Agathe is just OK but Gundula Janowitz sings much better. Simon O'Neill's Max is excellent; he sings strongly and passionality. London Symphony Orchestra plays very well and Sir Colin leads these forces like happy grandfather. But still, I recommend Carlos Kleiber MARVELLOUS recording (DG). It is much better than this, notwithstanding this is SACD. Kleiber's version included brilliant dialogue, many sound effects and fast and attractive tempi. So, buy this, if you like Sir Colin Davis' performances and slow tempi.

Christiane Brewer (Agathe), Sally Matthews (Ännchen), Simon O'Neill (Max), Lars Woldt (Kaspar), Stephan Loges (Samiel / Ottokar), Martin Snell (Kuno), Gidon Saks (A hermit), Marcus Farnsworth (Kilian), Lucy Hall (bridermaid)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

Disc 1 (64'20)
1. Overture (10'38)
2. Introduction: "Victoria, der Meister soll leben" (5'46)
3. Terzett mit Chor: "O! Diese Sonne!" (6'59)
4. Scene, Walzer und Arie: "Nein, länger trag' ich nicht die Qualen" (9'27)
5. Lied: "Hier im ird'schen Jammerthal" (2'36)
6. Arie: "Schweig'! Schweig'! damit dich niemand warnt' (3'44)
7. Duett: "Schelm! halt fest!" (5'01)
8. Ariette: "Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen" (4'07)
9. Scene und Arie: "Wie nahte mir der Schlummer" (8'56)
10. Terzett: "Wie? Was? Entsetzen!" (7'06)

Disc 2 (58'23)
1. Finale - Die Wolfsschlucht: "Mich des Mondes fiel aufs Kraut" (18'08)
2. Entre-Acte (2'04)
3. Cavatine: "Und ob die Wolke sie verhulle" (5'30)
4. Romanze und Arie: "Einst träumte meiner sel'gen Base" (6'51)
5. Volkslied: "Wir winden dir den Jungfernkranz" (4'11)
6. Jägerchor: "Was gleicht wohl auf Erden dem Jägervergnugen" (2'52)
7. Finale: "Schaut, o schaut, er traf die eig'ne Braut!" (18'47)

SACD - 5.1 Multichannel and stereo

Recorded live 19 & 21 April 2012 at the Barbican, London
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