Christine Brewer / Sally Matthews / Colin Davis

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz

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This recording was made in April 2012 from a pair of live performances of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz at London's Barbican, and just a year later the great British conductor Colin Davis was dead at 85. The continuing high quality of his music-making in old age, in something as taxing as a full-length operatic score, deserves study in itself, and this release, apparently the last of his numerous operatic recordings (including at least one other Der Freischütz), is certainly a worthy conclusion to the oeuvre. The London Symphony Orchestra is putty in Davis' hands, and they create a warm, magical tone that is of the essence of the pure German Romanticism of this superantural-themed opera. Davis' approach is quite deliberate as to tempo, and the singers, including Simon O'Neill as the titular "free-shooter," Christine Brewer as Agathe, and Sally Matthews as Ännchen, seem taxed occasionally, but all are attuned to the moods of the work. Those moods may seem to shift abruptly inasmuch as the spoken dialogue is cut, presumably to fit the entire opera on a pair of CDs. Just as the CD made concert-length programs of instrumental music possible, new models of digital distribution ought to enable musicians to present operas in full. But these are small complaints, and this is a solid note on which to bring down the curtain on Davis' remarkable career. The LSO Live label's sound is never less than clear.

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