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Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz, opus 77, J. 277
Andreas Schager (Max), Lise Davidsen (Agathe), Alan Held (Kaspar), Sofia Fomina (Annchen), Markus Eiche (Prince Ottokar), Christoph Filler (Kilian), Andreas Bauer (Kuno), Franz-Josef Selig (vocal part), Joanne Marie D’Mello (first bridesmaid), Kerstin Klein-Koyuncu (second bridesmaid), Dorothea Sulikowski (third bridesmaid), Sybille Neumüller (fourth bridesmaid), Corinna Kirchhoff, Peter Simonischek (narration), MDR Leipzig Radio Choir, Philipp Ahmann (chorus master), Frankfurt Radio Symphony, (Alejandro Rutkauskas (concertmaster), Peter-Philipp Staemmler (solo cello), Andreas Willwohl (solo viola), Marek Janowski (conductor)
Recording: HR-Sendesaal, Frankfurt/Main, Germany (November 2018) – 115’52
Pentatone PTC 5186 788 SACD (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English and German

This Der Freischütz recording comes on the heels of Christian Räth’s new Viennese production back in June 2018 with Pentatone retaining singers, Andreas Schager (Max) and Alan Held (Kaspar). Though Weber’s work was reprised in September, of the same year, the thematic content went a bit off-kilter. Conversely, when issuing an ‘audio only’ option, the focus better channels around voice and orchestral qualities. Conjuring effects both phantasmagorical and Romantic, under Marek Janowski’s management, the conditioning is satisfying.

M. Schager’s sharpshooter possesses an energy that, many times, turns his engine to ‘super drive’, as is the case during the momentous “Wolf’s Glen” passage...an undeniably outrageous [and blistering] tenor might, though the vibrato oscillations get inordinate: it’s easier for him to fall into Weber’s abyss of torment rather than ‘ginning up’ his ebullience over Agathe. Alan Held’s grandly rich bass-baritone register adds his own modicum of toxicity: the huntsman’s timbre is patient and consistent with excellent punctuation on particular words, especially when he delves into the final aria in Act I, “Schweig! Damit dich Niemand warnt.”

The most compelling voices, however, rest inside the female contingent, especially with Sofia Fomina. Mlle. Fomina’s tonality has an immaculacy of coloratura lightness (akin to Anneliese Rothenberger)...she’s easily able to convey her Annchen with flittering gaiety. The buoyancy is effortless and firm with the confidence to tackle the technical demands during her Mozartian Act II arietta, “Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen.” Conjunctively, the voice beautifully superimposes over the deeper content from soprano, Lise Davidsen (Agathe.) The cousins’ firmity makes the musical blend fold together with superb balance. Separately, Mlle. Davidsen’s Agathe exudes the images of purity and religiosity during her Act II aria. Very apropos.

Another pivotal and salient passage for Lise Davidsen occurs early in Act III when she bathes her cavatina (“Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle”) with providence and a pearly glow that’s aided by resonances from Peter-Philipp Staemmler’s cello. After Peter Simonischek’s [the hermit narrative] innocuous dissertation, we experience a much stronger dramatic fold by Mlle. Fomina as she rightfully foments during the Romance and aria (ref: “Einst träumte meiner sel’gen Base”) with a bold foundation by violist, Andreas Willwohl. Fabulous dialoguing.

The bridesmaids’ “Folksong” quickly follows in a perky, coquettish rendition. Each of the four bridesmaids (Joanne Marie D’Mello, Kerstin Klein-Koyuncu, Dorothea Sulikowski and Sybille Neumüller) adds their own blissful amalgamation, ultimately building to Agathe’s angst when she opens the box.

One of the monumental foundations surrounding Der Freischütz can be credited to Philipp Ahmann’s MDR Leipzig Radio Choir. Their choral framework is an integral part in the opera, and here we experience a strong, sensitive caption that adds to Weber’s arresting romance.

Under the guise of “external freshness”, Samiel is represented by a female; nonetheless, this topic can be widely debated. In this instance, however, Corinna Kirchhoff’s narration has a translucency and evil accentuation that truly works in moving Carl Maria von Weber’s œuvre forward in an eerie and striking fashion.

Christie Grimstad




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