If you ask any seasoned orchestral player which overtures they have played the most, “Der Freischutz” and “Oberon” by Weber will be near the top of the list. But there the story ends, for although he wrote a Clarinet Concerto which is a favourite of wind players, few of his other works see the light of day.
The reason for this could be that for most of his short life he dedicated himself to writing opera. This disc contains all his surviving overtures with the exception of "The Maid of the Woods" which is held in the Mariinsky Theatre library and is denied to scholars.
Weber writes fluent tuneful and energetic music which sounds similar to Haydn at his best and this is not surprising as one of his teachers was Haydn's brother, Michael. He encouraged the young Weber to enter the operatic world and present his opera "Peter Schmoll" in 1803 at Augsburg.
All these overtures are highly entertaining and his sense of orchestration is finely developed. By the time he wrote his most famous opera “Oberon“ for Covent Garden in 1826 he had started to develop the leitmotif idea which was later expanded and developed by Wagner.
Weber died of tuberculosis a few weeks after the Covent Garden premiere and so a leading light of the European stage died at the age of forty leaving the way open for Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini to flood the opera stages with Italian gems. They eclipsed Weber and his ideas for the rest of the century.
Let us hope that enterprising opera companies will not only perform Oberon and Freischutz but give his eight other operas a hearing some time. But for now we can enjoy this disc of sparkling gems played with style and authority by the outstanding WDR orchestra under Howard Griffiths.
The recordings are taken from live WDR Cologne concerts. The recording is balanced and dynamic and leaves a lovely glow around the orchestra without sacrificing detail. Recommended.
WDR Sinfonieorchester Cologne conducted by Howard Griffiths
CPO 777 831-2 [69:00]
Release date: 26th Feb 2016