もっと頻繁に上演されてしかるべきなのにされない作品にとって、このレコーディングはきわめて貴重である。(Thomas May, Amazon.com)
I first heard the Wolf's Glen scene in an EMI sampler LP of operatic highlights and still feel that it is the most atmospheric ever recorded - better than the Kleiber version which, although still effective, doesn't quite capture the Gothic chill and has a rather ordinary-voiced Samiel compared with the hard, abrasive Fritz Hoppe for Keilberth. Where Kleiber particularly scores is in the crowd scenes with the dances and choruses. It was a on a remainder bin LP - only the first LP of the set - that I heard his overture and the opening scene with its natural-sounding crowd noises, mocking laughter and galumphing peasants struck me as enormously invigorating music-making; Kleiber takes the whole thing at a clip and really injects life into proceedings. Keilberth is steadier and more staid, with the grander-sounding BPO but his is also an affectionate and beautifully played account.
I give Kleiber five stars even though I readily admit an antipathy to Peter Schreier's throaty, nasal tenor. I really cannot comprehend how some find his pinched voice beautiful but he is impassioned and characterful here, sounding really desperate as Max, so I let it pass. Schock has a more conventionally baritonal heroic tenor and sings agreeably if a tad blandly. Dramatic verisimilitude is enhanced by the fact that Keilberth's singers deliver their own dialogue whereas for Kleiber a very truncated script is employed and actors are used, with the usual mismatch between singing and speaking voices. That abridgement also means that some famous lines are cut, such as that quoted by Bismarck in the Reichstag in 1849: "Glaubst du, dieser Adler sei dir geschenkt?" ("Do you think you get this eagle for nothing?").
Regarding the leading ladies in both versions, all are superb. There is little to choose between two of the loveliest German post-war sopranos in Elisabeth Grümmer and Gundula Janowitz, both of whom were lyric sopranos who could sing the lighter Wagner roles and to whose silvery voices I could listen all night. Both Lisa Otto and Edith Mathis are delightful as Ännchen. I prefer Karl Christian Kohn's mostly focused, black-voiced Kaspar for Keilberth to Theo Adam (sometimes unkindly known by his non-admirers as "Mr Wobble", but passable for Kleiber). Both hermits are impressive, even if a younger-voiced Franz Crass is steadier than the veteran Gottlob Frick - but both bring the requisite kindly gravitas to the role. The Leipzig chorus is livelier and interpretatively freer than the more "operatic" Berliners; the latter are less animated in their hailing of Kilian and barracking of Max but only comparatively speaking and they respond credibly in little incidents such as when Max draws a knife on Kilian. Both conductors relish the Bauer element in the music. There are a few clumsy tape edits on the EMI recording and its 1958 stereo sound, although fine, is less immediate than the fuller but slightly toppy DG recording from 1973.
DG have committed a firearms solecism in depicting what is clearly a more modern, double-barrelled shotgun; a marksman like Max would have been using some kind of primitive rifle capable of firing only bullets (magic or otherwise), not shot, whether it be single, double or even triple barrelled.
I cannot choose between these two admirable versions but can endorse both as excellent, faithful renditions which do honour to a seminal German opera.
I am transported to wonderful mid-European rural scenes every time I hear it. It is my favourite opera for its sheer exuberance and vitality. Not a bad story either!
If you've never heard the voice of Gundula Janowitz, hear it now. She never sings a wrong note, or even a faintly ugly one. After Grace Bumbry's incomparable Verdi Requiem (BBC, Philharmonia, Giulini), this has to be my favourite recording of any solo voice. It stands to reason, I suppose, that no-one else on the recording matches Janowitz, but the cast is very good overall. Peter Schreier never had the most beautiful tenor tone, but he hits all the notes and fits the character excellently; Max is a hero and an anti-hero, at the same time, so Schreier's tuneful sub-Heldentenor voice suits the role well. Edith Mathis would steal the performance, in the presence of any other soprano than Janowitz. Theo Adam's tone is slightly harsh, but he makes an imposing baddie.
I don't entirely subscribe to the worship of Carlos Kleiber, because there were as many misses as hits among his famously rare recordings, but this has to be one of his definite successes. Under his direction, the Dresden Staatskapelle plays with superb discipline (it was, we should recall, an era when not playing so could mean a long stay in the company of the Stasi). The recording is pre-digital by some years, but it's as good as the best from the time, well re-mastered.
The reason I can't give this set five stars is that the members of the singing cast are shadowed by a speaking cast, to deliver the dialogue. I assume that this is part of the East German myth of "full employment", but it sounds ridiculous. All of the speakers over-act disastrously. Poor old Edith Mathis has an alter-ego who seems to belong in a straitjacket. This was a common characteristic of East German opera recordings with spoken dialogue. The same singers, anywhere else, tended to be able to deliver spoken lines quite happily for themselves, since it was what they did automatically in any staged production.
What raises this above the other recent(-ish) recordings is the combination of orchestra, conductor and soloists, Janowitz above all. Harnoncourt is as good a conductor as Kleiber, with another fine German orchestra, but saddled himself (intentionally, it seems) with a woefully inadequate Max. It's a shame, because Luba Orgonasova is the closest recent rival to Janowitz. When released, Marek Janowski's performance received inexplicable praise for the main soprano, Sharon Sweet, but she is the poorest performer in an otherwise excellent cast. Peter Seiffert, an outstanding Parsifal in his day, sings the role of Max as beautifully as anyone. Perhaps, he lacks the vulnerability of Schreier, but it's the best recent recording of the role and worth hearing, if you can track it down.
I think it's a shame that the Dresden/Kleiber recording wins, more or less, by being the last version available of this wonderfully tuneful opera. The preposterously badly executed spoken dialogue jars from the very first hearing. There is room for a new "Freischuetz". Where in heaven will they find a new Janowitz?
Soger der ansonsten kühle Peter Schreier entwickelt ungeahntes Temperament und Dramatik.
Carlos Kleiber wie gewohnt mitreißende Wiedergabe der Partitur,packend im Zugriff einfach wundervoll.
Gundula Janowitz's samtig leuchtende Stimme paßt sehr gut zu Agathe.
Eine Aufnahme ohne Makel,sicher eine Sternstunde der Freischütz Einspielungen.