Der Freischütz
Simon O'Neill, Christine Brewer, London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis
LSO Live LSO0726

Sir Colin’s last recording makes a spooky old-school testament.

Revered British conductor Sir Colin Davis passed away a few months ago, yet reviewing his last recording still comes a something of a shock. Listening to this live concert performance of Weber’s ghostly masterpiece is a welcome reminder of the virtues that kept this tireless musical advocate at the top of his game for 50 years.

Carl Maria von Weber was a regular visitor in the Wagner household while the young Richard was growing up, and nowhere was his influence more clearly felt on the operatic giant- to-be than in his gothic fairytale, Der Freischütz. Davis homes in on that Wagnerian dimension, and if his Weber is a relatively sedate affair next to his blistering Berlioz, it benefits from his other great strengths – instinctive sense of orchestral balance and sensitivity to singers. It’s a big-boned reading and the LSO plays its collective heart out for their Chief. Soloists are ideally memorable and the horn section is to die for.

Christine Brewer makes a fine Agathe. Her ample voice is beautifully shaded when required and her prayer is most moving. New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill sings the vacillating hero Max. His voice is clear and penetrating but it’s a tight sound with a tendency to snarl. Sally Matthews makes a winning Ännchen, singing with considerable charm, while Lars Woldt is genuinely creepy as the villainous Kaspar. But it’s Sir Colin’s night and as legacies go, this one ain’t bad.

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Weber: Der Freischütz (LSO)
4 out of 5
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