Weber’s Freischütz is a romantic Opera per excellence. And Furtwängler is one of the historic romantic conductor per excellence. Thus, time to review the historic recording of the 1954s Salzburg representation.

At first, I start with a disclaimer: This is a historic live recording. It’s mono, and even if EMI worked a lot on the original recording, it remains a historic recording. No, there are no clicks, but you will hear the public, it’s mono, and the bandwidth is relatively reduced. But, these historic live recordings have a specific ambiance.

In all cases, the recording is certainly historic. Furtwängler is one of the huge german conductors of the tradition. And this recording is definitively his recording, with quite slow tempies, a predominance of the graves, giving a real density to the score. Despite this, the recording remains energic, and transparent. At the end, it is really Furtwängler’s view of “der Freischütz”, and the goal is certainly not to be as close as possible to the historic “truth”.

Just a mention to the Orchestra and the choir, which are at the high of their reputation. At least, the colour of the orchestra is important for the Freischütz, and Furtwängler uses the ability of the Orchestra to produce differenciated colors.

The singers are all first grade german singers of the 1950s. Hopf is really a great Max. He has the right mixture of dark color, technique to sing smoothly when needed, and with power and stamina. He masters his aria, even in this very slow and difficult variant that Furtwängler imposes. Grümmer as feminine counterpart, is a superb Agathe, no doubt, even if her vibrato is here stronger, and the floated tones not as present as in a studio recording. I have the impression, that she always stays on the secure side.

Böhme is a dark voiced Kaspar. Musically, very precise, and in the play, very direct, without intellectual bias. For me, this corresponds to Kaspar. Streich and Poell are very luxurious second roles, Edelmann is a bass-baryton, his voice has a gorgeous timbre, but, he is definitively not a true bass, which is required for a good Eremit.

At the end, I like this recording, even with it’s flaws (good historic live, …). In all cases, the impressive Wolf’s Glen scene and Max aria are really worth it.

Kind regards,

Christophe Grévent