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David S. Baumgartner
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This 1995 "live" recording shows Harnoncourt's attention to detail and his ability to impel his excellent Berlin Radio Orchestra and singers to very strong and meaningful performances. The sound is excellent and it is obvious he has demanded that all reach for the highest levels of artistic ability. This a radio performance as the audience applauds only at the end.
Endrik Wollrich, who has become one of Europe's leading opera tenors, delivers his big solo with fire and while his voice has a very slight but recognizable throaty sound, it nevertheless is attractive, solid, innocent and perfectly evenly and securely produced throughout his range. There is insufficient dialogue between Max and Kaspar in Act I but Matti Salminen's Kaspar demonstrates some wry acting ability by being easy-going and non-threatening until he orders Max to "shoot" the eagle and then when alone turns to disclose his real intention to trap Max belting out his great aria "Scweig...Triumph" with dark, gripping aggression. This transformation is a choice piece of acting bringing out Kaspar's devious nature. Ännchen, Christine Schäfer, paints a splendid picture of youthful feminine longing in her Act I aria with Harnoncourt giving her slight meaningful pauses allowing for enchanting emphasis. Her Act III aria fares less well, missing the playfulness and fun despite singing with absolutely gorgeous voice; in this aria, however, she might just as well have been singing "la,la,la". Schäfer is not much of an actress. I saw her Gilda and although she looks beautiful and sings beautifully she has little depth in interpretation, just essentially standing and delivering.
Now the Slovak soprano,Luba Orgonasova ,as Agathe, is quite the opposite, being very sensitive with a full panoply of dynamic variation in her Act I aria ending with happy delight and powerful joy at seeing Max's approach, swelling with abundant resources to ripe voluptuousness. In her Act III prayer aria, showing lovely soft high notes which she never tries to belt, caressing and moving, tenderly and touchingly throughout as befits the words, she displays a wide range of contrast, from gentle to fireworks and always melodious.
Harnoncourt certainly knows how to accomplish the required agitation and excitability creating crescendos within arias and musical climaxes and interplay with all his forces. E.g., his is the only version I know where Kaspar's aria contains an accellerando ending. His horns are featured especially in driving the Act II entr'acte. The Bridesmaids chorus zips along, the Act I dance is sprightly and the Hunters' Chorus shows they are impatient to begin the shooting. This conductor's emphases, stresses, underscorings and ability to communicate emotion of the moment are unparalleled in my other and many Freischütz recordings and he carries this sweep of attention not just to the orchestra but also to the singers!
Kurt Moll, as the Hermit, is incomparable with rock-solid, beautiful, mellifluous, rich flowing tones while Wolfgang Holzmair sings both Ottokar and Killian very well, a sensible approach and confirming this was a concert version, as does the use of Schäfer as a Bridesmaid soloist. The Wolfsschlucht always has that inherent problem of trying to make the opening chorus spooky which every single endeavor, including here, fails. However, Hannoncourt and his orchestra superbly support the frightening aspects of the whole scene by the widest dynamics, from ppp to fff, and abrupt tempo changes to guide the turmoil, dramatics and tension with electifying results, draining all potentialities for downright forceful excitement. Samiel, for once, doesn't sound like he is yelling from afar through a megaphone but, alas, he's not very scary. This nominee for several opera awards is very highly recommended.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I love Weber's Der Freischütz, far preferring it even to Beethoven's Fidelio and any other opera composed in the early 19th century. As a lover of Haydn's music I like the mix of Weber's Haydn-esque moments, like the little military march in Act I (Terzetto) that sounds like Haydn's delightful 'Toy' Symphony, combined with advanced rhythmic complexities and cinematic musical effects, as in the Wolf's Glen scene which still can raze the hair on my arms in the right hands of a conductor who doesn't view this old masterwork as a museum piece. And there is one memorable and lovely tune following on another from beginning to end. It is my favorite Singspiel (spoken dialogue instead of accompanied recitativo or through composed music). Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and LvB's Fidelio are the other famous examples of this genre.
Harnoncourt can be a very annoying conductor. Some of his Mozart recordings are so self-attention-grabbing as to be unlistenable, and I have gotten rid of his Giovanni, Zauberflöte and Figaro, but his Cosi fan tutte is exquisite! Go figure.
A variable conductor, then, who can be brilliant, as he is with Der Freischütz, and pretentious and silly, as he is in the aforementioned Mozart operas. He has the great advantage in this recording of having the Berlin Philharmonic at his disposal. They actually sound authentically rustic at times, especially the bumptious horns, and the violins do a great job of imitating cat-gut instruments in some of the dance music.
His cast is superlative as well. Endrik Wottich is not very well known outside of Germany but he has recorded quite a few excellent roles for some of the great conductors of the past 20 years. His Max is no super-hero but a rather troubled young man who has a complex about not going to war, as had Kaspar, the villain, who has returned with a chip on his shoulder against the young hunter (Max) who is now engaged to what Harnoncourt suggests was Kaspar's ex-girlfriend, Agathe.
Kaspar is sung by the great Finnish bass Matti Salminen, none better, right up there with Gottlob Frick for Keilberth, but not as sexy sounding as that great German singer's voice was. The Wolf's Glen scene is not as thrilling as Keilberth's, even in his older sounding recording, which is still unsurpassed in this opera. Keilberth has a marginally finer cast. Elisabeth Grümmer is more engaging and romantic sounding than the lovely-voiced but over-careful Luba Organazova for Harnoncourt. The famous aria beginning 'Leise, leise..' is, as Harnoncourt explains in his interesting interview in the excellent booklet accompanying this fine Teldec recording, that this aria is 'static'. Harnoncourt excels at 'static'. It is what makes Charlotte Margiono's 'Per pietà' on his Cosi recording so blissfully beautiful. Organazova does not bewitch in this way, Grümmer (Keilberth) does.
This cast is rounded off with Kurt Moll's sublime Hermit and Christine Schäfer's saucy but slightly dark Aenchen, who Harnoncourt thinks is the character more suited to the rustic and bumpkin hunter, Max. Wolfgang Holzmair is the pompous and 'decorative' prince, singing like one too.
I like this recording almost as much as Keilberth's and find it more enjoyable than the very popular Carlos Kleiber set, which I always think is a little over-blown and eccentric. Not everything that unique conductor did was brilliant, but his Freischütz is highly respected. I often turn to Harnoncourt for a unique take on this evergreen masterpiece. Keilberth is still The Best, but if you want more modern sound and a an equally good cast as Keilberth's, finer in several roles actually, then Janowski's set on RCA is probably a first choice. He has the best Max I've heard, Peter Seiffert, and a lovely Agathe in Sharon Sweet, the best Aenchen of all in Ruth Ziesak and a vividly baleful, if a little wobbly, Kaspar in Kurt Rydl.
But Harnoncourt is highly recommended for the collector of multiple recordings of this wonderful Singspiel-Opera.
6 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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This Teldec recording, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt is a very fine performance in many ways, and I would have awarded it 5 stars if we didn't have Carlos Kleiber's DGG recording to compare it with.
I usually judge an operatic performance on 5 criteria: 1) Soloists' vocal performances 2) Soloists' idiomatic qualities 3) Conductor's technical performance 4) Conductor's idiomatic qualities, and 5) Sound. Other criteria might come in to play, such as completeness of score, orchestral performance, etc.
The singers on this recording are all excellent, both in vocal and idiomatic qualities. When I compare it to the Kleiber's recording, I do think that the three of the lead singers here (Wottrich as Max, Orgonasova as Agathe, and Schafer as Annchen) don't have quite as youthful a sound as the singers on Kleiber's team (Schreier, Janowitz, and Mathis). This is not a significant issue, it's a matter of taste really, as all the singers on both recordings are in fine voice and inhabit their characters completely. Comparing some of the other roles, Matti Salminen, as Kaspar under Harnoncourt, is much stronger than Theo Adam under Kleiber. One note: the DGG studio recording uses actors for the spoken dialog.
Both recordings sound great. Kleiber's DGG studio recording, circa 1973, is analog but remastered and sounds clear and bright (very bright, though, in some places) and surprisingly detailed and dynamic. Teldec's 1996 digital recording is better; amazingly realistic and we hear all kinds of great orchestral detail, dynamics, and depth.
The big difference is in the conducting.
Harnoncourt is, obviously, an accomplished and justly renowned conductor. He began to establish his reputation in his pioneering authentic baroque recordings of Bach and Monteverdi, etc., in the 70s. He started to turn his attention to the works of romantic composers in the 90s, and he is excellent here in this live concert version of Weber's most popular opera. Where Kleiber really scores over Harnoncourt is in sheer electricity. Almost every moment is riveting.
1) Listen and compare the opening chorus (Viktoria, Viktoria!). Kleiber creates a real sense of celebration and abandon, the horns of the Dresden orchestra (where Weber himself was conductor) have true hunting horn swagger, and the peasant musicians sound authentically forward and coarse (kudos to the sound engineers on that one). Kleiber really shows how wonderfully rhythmic the writing of the libretto is here and accentuates it in his conducting. By comparison, Harnoncourt creates a polished sound (reminding me of von Karajan) which is less involving; the chorus and orchestra are great, but the chorus sounds like a concert not a crowd of peasants and the Berlin Philharmonic horns sound symphonic instead of like reveling hunters.
2) In the famous Act 2 Wolf's Glen scene, again Kleiber is to be preferred. There is knife-edge tension in the orchestra and deep menace in the chorus. Listen to the crescendo in the basses! When things get going, Kleiber has great propulsion and buoyancy, and he achieves a kind of punctuation that highlights the suspense in the words being sung. When the scene is over, you can tell you were holding your breath! In comparison, Harnoncourt, although really very good, is a degree tamer. His Wolf's Glen scene is 2 1/2 minutes longer than Kleiber's. It's not that sheer speed is always better, but the slower tempi in places draw things out, depriving the scene of some momentum - compared to Kleiber that is. Harnoncourt's approach to the counting of the bullets is also telling. The score calls for each count, yelled out by the evil Kaspar, to be echoed menacingly loud, but in the Teldec recording they chose to have the echo almost whispered. It's not suspenseful, rather it is the opposite.
3) And then there is the great Act 3 chorus. Again, Kleiber creates this real rousing carousing hunting chorus, aided by those swaggering horns, and you can't help tapping your feet and wanting to join in the revelry, which provides great contrast for what is about to come. Harnoncourt's chorus sounds wonderful, but again it sounds like a concert chorus, not a hunting, drinking chorus.
These are three key reference points that highlight the differences in approach by these two great conductors. In the final analysis, both recordings provide great satisfaction. But, if you can't own both recordings, Kleiber is the clear first choice.