- Carl Maria von Weber - The Father of German Opera [Recommended Recordings]
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Carl Maria von Weber
Recommended Recordings

Der Freischütz
(Theo Adam, Franz Crass, et al; Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Radio Chorus; Carlos Kleiber, conductor)
Der Freischütz is one of the great milestones in the history of opera. The resounding success of its premiere in 1821 practically made it a manifesto for German Romantic opera, one that would become a significant formative influence on Wagner. Although it has its roots in the Singspiel tradition exemplified by Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Der Freischütz cut new ground with its potent mixture of supernatural elements, dreams, folk melodies, evocations of nature, and symphonic tone painting. Here, von Weber exploited his brilliant orchestral imagination--using, for example, carefully divided string tremolos and a gleaming choir of four horns--to maximum effect. This legendary recording from 1973 was Carlos Kleiber's first studio project, and the scrupulous attention he lavished on the score resulted in an interpretation that continues to sound bold, fresh, and authoritative. The Dresden Staatskapelle plays in top form, whether in tenderly sprung wind solos or in the truly spooky atmospherics of the famous Wolf's Glen scene. Peter Schreier's dark, pungent tenor is something of an acquired taste, but he gives fervent voice to the despair of hunter/protagonist Max. Gundula Janowitz sings with stirring beauty and enriches the two-dimensional character of Max's beloved Agathe with remarkable depth, revealing both her innocence and her agonized foreboding. And Theo Adam delivers a thoroughly spiteful, loathesome vocal portrait of the nefarious Kaspar, whose pact with the devil Samiel goes awry. For a work that is not performed nearly as often as it deserves to be, this recording is essential. (reviewed by Thomas May)

(Vesselina Kasarova, Inga Nielsen, et al; Berlin Radio Chorus, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Marek Janowski, conductor)
Musically and in its plot and atmosphere, Oberon owes something to Mozart's Magic Flute. But Mozart's crazy mixed-up masterpiece ventures just inside the borders of Romanticism. The last opera of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) goes deeply into Romantic atmosphere and mystique. Its rather disjointed but colorful libretto magically takes a medieval French knight (tenor Peter Seiffert) and the Caliph of Baghdad's daughter (soprano Inga Nielsen) through a series of trials (shipwreck on a desert island, capture by pirates, enslavement, and sexual harassment) to test the strength of their love. The music is magnificent, looking ahead to Wagner as well as back to Mozart. Conductor Marek Janowski does it full justice, uses a better edition than his chief rival on records, Kubelik, and has a first-class cast. (review by Joe McLellan)

The Best of Weber
(Nikita Magaloff, Oskar Michallik, et al; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, et al; Antal Doráti, Sir Colin Davis, et al. - conducting )


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