Entertainment » Music

Electrola Collection: Der Freischutz

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Wednesday Feb 6, 2013
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"Der Freischütz" was one of the most popular and recognizable operas from the innovative, musical ear of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), the German credited as the first composer of the Romantic period.

The opera in three acts, with a libretto by Johann Friedrich Kind, tells the story of the "marksman" Max, who must win a shooting contest in order to marry his betrothed Agathe. However, Max has doubts about his abilities as a forester, and is almost sold to Zamiel (the devil) by the persuasive and crafty Kaspar, who himself has concluded his own contract with Lucifer, and hopes that he can trade Max for an extension of his own existence on Earth.

Weber’s work begins with one of the most well-known overtures in musical literature, and was the first to contain actual melodic excerpts from the opera itself. Though he only lived to the age of forty, his musical impact would continue not only through the performances of his own compositions, but also through those whose output were derived from his musical ideas, including Debussy, Mahler, and Wagner.

This 1969 recording, from the EMI Classics / Electrola Collection, is first-rate. The orchestra is inspiring in its playing of the score, and the interpretation by the singers is clearly understandable (if you understand German) and sung beautifully. Highlights include the arias by Nicolai Gedda as Max ("Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen," or "Through the forests, through the pastures") and the wonderful Birgit Nilsson as Agathe ("Leise, leise, fromme Weise," or "Quiet, quiet, pious way"). Conductor Robert Heger keeps the Orchester der Bayerischen Staatsoper München on top of the music, throughout both the brisk and sensitive sections of Weber’s score.

Though the libretto is not included (it is easily accessible from any number of websites), the notes include an interesting section on the specific performers’ histories with the opera, in both German and English. This recording is most definitely a highlight of EMI’s Electrola Collection.

"Der Freischütz"
Carl Maria von Weber / Birgit Nilsson / Robert Heger
Orchester der Bayerischen Staatsoper München
CD and Digital formats
EMI Classics / Electrola Collection

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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