Weber - Der Freischütz

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) was a contemporary of Beethoven and Schubert. He was a prodigy who published his first composition at twelve and had his first opera performed at seventeen. From the age of twenty he earned his living as director of a series of opera houses, including those of Prague, Berlin and Dresden. He lived a short but intense life, dying in London aged thirty-nine.

Weber enjoyed significant success as a composer of operas and concertos. He was also an exceptional pianist by all accounts. Though history has judged him to be less illustrious than either Beethoven or Schubert, he was considered to be an important influence on Chopin and Liszt, and a forerunner of the Romantic era, and Wagner in particular.

Weber’s opera Der Freischütz is possibly his best known achievement and was premiered in Berlin in 1821. It is set in Bohemia in the middle of the 17th century, and tells the story of forest dwellers, frustrated lovers, evil-doers and redemption. Although Weber studied in Austria with the composer Michael Haydn, Der Freischütz is considered to be very much classical music in transition, and fans of Wagner would find much to admire in it – not just its folkloric subject matter, but its surprisingly rich orchestration, its evocation of the natural world, and its use of noticeable tunes.

Sir Colin Davis conducts here with his usual verve and the LSO and LSO Chorus are on stirring form. The recording was taken from concert performances given at the Barbican in April 2012. The highlight is probably the famous Wolf’s Glen scene in which Caspar, aided by Samiel the black huntsman (aka the Devil?) creates the legendary magic bullets. The lead roles of the lovers Agathe and Max are taken by the acclaimed soprano Christine Brewer and rising tenor star Simon O’Neill.

James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer

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