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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steady as she goes... Sir Colin., 30 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Weber: Der Freischütz (Audio CD)
Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischutz set the template for German romanticism - its juxtaposition of the natural world and the supernatural; of good versus evil and the simple country folk of the village in conflict with the daemonic terrors of "der wald" struck a chord with its 19th Century audience's psyche - despite the advances in science and education providing a more rational view of the world, the old superstitions would not diminish. Weber put this to good use - even in the technologically advanced/secular world of the 21st Century, Freischutz still conveys a message which triggers those primal fears and commmunicates on a higher level of sophistication the subconcious fears of modern man!

This is a dark-hued account of Weber's opera; not much sunlight breaks through the tightly knit canopy of this wald. Colin Davis presents the listener with a positively Wagnerian Freischutz, with consistently slow tempi darkening the mood. There are none of the delicate nuances and sprightly rhythms of, say, Carlos Kleiber's famous DG recording - the Peasants' Waltz, from Act 1, becomes a nightmarish, Landler-like plod under Davis' baton - and there is somewhat less dynamic contrast and tonal colour conveying the distinct qualities of nature and the supernatural. However, this heavyweight, more serious approach to Weber's score pays dividends - the Wolf's Glen scene has a sinister quality which is enhanced by the slower tempo generating an atmosphere all the more terrifying. The hooting owls, baying hounds, etc, may seem a little excessive, but are thrilling, nonetheless! The casting of the freikugel bullets will send a chill down your spine!

The Dresden Staatskapelle play with deeper, darker sonority for Davis; the orchestra sounding somewhat less agile than it did under Kleiber's baton. But, I prefer the orchestra in this recording - the Dresden orchestra can sound lightweight and underpowered in many recordings - not here! Karita Mattila's Agathe does have an ice-cool beauty, but is not quite the equal of Gundula Janowitz's or Elizabeth Grummer's assumptions, being less characterful in comparison. Her "Leise, leise", for example, is cool, calculated and lacking in warmth of expression. Francisco Araiza's Max is heroic enough, but a little more colour and contrast would be welcomed in Max's Act 1 aria, for example. However, his Max is one of the finest and his rich, dark tones are preferable to the hard edged, strangulated renditions of some "heroic" tenors I could mention! Ekkehard Wlaschiah's Kaspar is suitably villainous and he excels in the "drinking song". Eva Lind's Aennchen is a little weak; Lind has a small, light-toned voice which would have more impact in a less heavyweight account of Freischutz - here, despite moments of beauty, her voice is underpowered with an unappealingly excessive vibrato. Kurt Moll's Hermit has an abundance of weight and gravitas and the rest of the cast is more than adequate.

Is this the best recording of Freischutz? Yes and no. If Colin Davis' slow, dark brooding, more menacing account of the work appeals, then yes this is the best. However, one has to take into account the contributions of the singers, and Kleiber's DG cast shines more brightly, in my opinion. Then there's the old Keilberth/EMI recording to consider - Elizabeth Grummer's Agathe is second to none! Oh! And there's also Kubelik's glorious Decca Freischutz with Kollo and Behrens to confuse the potential purchaser even more...

My advice? Buy them all!
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2012 03:20:42 GMT
Abert says:
Wonderfully judicious and comprehensive review!
I particularly agree with your observation on the tempi of Davis - and would like to add that, with such tempi, the singers have a tougher time then, say, under Kleiber's swifter reading, especially the first Act aria of Max: it was almost 1.5 minutes longer than Kleiber's (Schreier) account. Araiza does bring it off, though I agree that the effect could have been better, but again, with such a slow tempo, one really cannot wish for more than what Araiza's given here.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2012 13:06:15 GMT
Thank you, Abel.

Yes, Davis' slower tempi will test the breathing and technique of the singers - those notes WILL crack under pressure! I agree - absolutely - with your comments... Araiza does indeed "bring it off", slow tempo notwithstanding.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2013 19:52:40 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Apr 2013 19:54:27 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Jeremy- EMI have just released the venerable Robert Heger Electrola recording with Gedda . I'm afraid it's another one to add to the list of must haves. What a fine tribute to the late Sir Colin this is, and of course we are about to get what I believe Is his last opera recording of a new LSO live Freischutz. Can't see it bettering this brooding version though. Adam is the BIG letdown on the Kleiber, though Gundula reigns supreme.So it's a YES from ME Jeremy. as ever, S

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2013 14:20:29 BDT
It's good to hear from you, Stewart.

I have the Electrola/Heger recording - another pre-order! Sir Colin's recent passing heralds the end of an era in British music-making. He's always been there... wonderful Sibelius, Berlioz, Mozart and Haydn recordings, etc. His was a VERY British, understated way of doing things, not unlike Sir Adrian... he will be sorely missed. I'm ashamed to say that I dismissed this recording on its release back in the early nineties - what a fool I was! I believe that Sir Colin made a recording of The Planets with the BPO? I shall investigate. I am enjoying Sir Colin's RCA/LSO Sibelius cycle - a recent purchase - which is magnificent...

It is high time that Kubelik's Freischutz was reissued in remastered sound. Decca/Universal Classics has reissued many opera recordings of little worth, yet Decca fails to remaster and reissue Kubelik's excellent recording. I'll keep an eye out for that new LSO Freischutz. Thank you, Stewart. Best wishes.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2013 15:48:12 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
There is indeed a BPO Planets-I could make a good case for saying it's the best modern recording-you can hear the organ glissando in Uranus just as in the Karajan. I had it on Solo-but for various reasons "lost possession"-and had to get it on a Universal reissue from the USA coupled with the ST. Pauls Suite with Marriner. the Planets IS a stormer. I'd like to put in a plea for his BRSO Mahler 4 which is exquisite, and his BRSO Mahler 8 in the SACD remastering is STUNNING-quite the best vocally-and the balance problem from the original release was rectified in the reissue. Then there's the best Elgar One ever with the Dresdeners live-I've reviewed it-and the marvellous BRSO Elgar Violin Concerto and In troduction and Allegro! Oh, then there's the live Enigma and RVW4 I reviewed...the list goes on. I've just been listening to his LSO Das Lied von der Erde with Vickers and Jessye Norman-I won't be remembering him for that one. I like his Lohengrin, but I'm in the minority there. By the way, I'm LOVING the Konwitschny Hollander to which you alerted me-possibly the top recommendation it's so good (it has its weak points but so do they all). The best £7 I've ever spent (well that bottle of wine and " packet of 3" in 1968 was a pretty good investment, but barring that...). Back to Sir Colin-his Sibelius 2 on Profil again with the Dresdeners will change your view of the work as much as Lennie's VPO version! It goes on..... Great to hear from you. Reviews????. As ever, Stewart

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2013 17:38:03 BDT
Thank you, Stewart. I've just ordered the Planets recording - on Philips/Solo! One tends not to associate Sir Colin with Mahler... but I'm willing to give it a try, and the BRSO is a favourite of mine! You have presented a veritable feast of Sir Colin snacks for me to get my teeth into - it'll cost me a small fortune! Yes, that Hollander; Fischer-Dieskau's clarity of voice and articulation conveys the text with a Lieder singer's insight and precision - a very sensitive Dutchman - and it is a superb recording. Even Ralph might alter his opinion of DFD? I'll be investigating that Sibelius/Profil recording immediately. Reviews? Is it worth the hassle, Stewart? The "undesirables" have an uncanny knack of appearing the moment I post a review. Only recently I tested the water, so to speak, and had my toe bitten by Mole! I removed the Giulini review! Is it any wonder that I'm such a curmudgeon?

Best Regards.
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