200 years ago, on May 26th 1821, today's Berlin Concert Hall was inaugurated as “Königliches Schauspielhaus”. Destroyed as “Preußisches Staatstheater” during World War II, the building, located in eastern Berlin, was rebuilt during GDR times and reopened as “Konzerthaus” in 1984. The premiere of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz on June 18th 1821 was a highlight of the opening year. The work became his most popular opera and one of the key works of the 19th century. A few days later, the composer (who died at the age of only 40 in 1826), had another piece premiered at the “Königliches Schauspielhaus”: his brilliant Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra op.79.
This year the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, with its principal conductor Christoph Eschenbach, will be celebrating these historic events. Weber holds a special place in the life of the great German conductor and pianist, as Der Freischütz was the first opera he saw at the age of ten. Eschenbach is being joined in this program, which combines overtures, arias and the famous concert piece, by two artists who reside at the Konzerthaus Berlin and are also Alpha artists: soprano Anna Prohaska and pianist Martin Helmchen.
Martin Helmchen gives real substance to the Konzertstück by incorporating the profusion of flashy runs and roulades into long-breathed, expressive phrases, and also in the way he renders details exquisitely yet without exaggeration. Eschenbach and the orchestra deserve credit, too, for they match Helmchen's deft touch and broad colour palette. Note, too, how the strings' spectral tone immediately sets the frightful scene Aennchen paints in her Act 3 Romanze. Soprano Anna Prohaska is a marvellous storyteller, although it's her viscous legato that impresses most.