Notes and Editorial Reviews
Weber's Der Freischütz has not wanted for good recordings. Carlos Kleiber's 1973 set (DG) with Gundula Janowitz as Agathe has all the necessary atmosphere and catches the right balance between the crass and the craft; Eugen Jochum's 1960 set (DG again) is more poetic with Irmgard Seefried. Particularly distinguished (though murky sounding) is Wilhelm Furtwängler's 1954 Salzburg Festival set (on several labels) with a few of the cast members present in this newly discovered production, led by Erich Kleiber, which was recorded in very fine sound by Cologne Radio in 1955. It's a very special reading, and almost pushes my top choice (the above-mentioned Carlos Kleiber) out of its slot. Almost.
The elder Kleiber leads a performance that strikes the ideal medium between Classicism and folk heritage--precisely how he manages to make the Act 1 waltz simultaneously lead- footed and graceful must remain a mystery. He leans toward quick tempos, particularly in the "evil" scenes--indeed, there are moments when it seems as if Max Proebstl's Kaspar is going to have trouble singing so quickly and with such accuracy and venom, but he does. Agathe's two arias are ravishing in their inwardness, and Elisabeth Grummer, magnificent for Furtwängler, is even better here, creating a dreamy, sympathetic character.
Rita Streich, robbed of Aanchen's second aria (she is said to have been ill) is perky and tuneful without cloying. Hans Hopf, never the most graceful or endearing of singers is here at his best (even better again than for Furtwängler the previous year), singing Max's ungrateful music (what, exactly, is this character?) with ease, meaningfulness, and even occasional polish. Proebstl's Kaspar is not the usual "black" bass sound, but he menaces with inflection and attention to the text. The "Wolf's Glen" scene is spectacular--clean, clear, and spooky at 16-and-a-half minutes. The recording is amazing for its vintage and the Cologne forces play with great style, but without the ease and energy of the Dresden forces under Kleiber fils. Still, if you see this and you're without a recording of Freischütz, grab it.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing an earlier reissue of this performance on Koch Schwann]