> Carl Maria von Weber - Peter Schmoll [RW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Peter Schmoll and his Neighbours (1802)
Busching, Schmidt, Pteffer, Basa, Porcher, Schöpflin
Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra/Gerhard Markson
Rec. Hagen, 1993
MARCO POLO 8.223592-3 [91.48]



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Peter Schmoll is a charming and delightful work largely unknown, particularly outside Germany. On listening to it one is distinctly aware of a style which could be identified as a lighter brand of Mozart. The work is in fact a brilliant attempt at opera composition by a fifteen year old who went on to write Der Freischütz - an opera widely performed to this day.

To help give a clearer picture of the work's style we need to delve into the background of this composer. Today, Weber is widely known for his Invitation to the Dance and Clarinet concertos, but less so for his operas Euryanthe and Oberon, his two symphonies and piano concertos.

Carl Maria von Weber's interest in theatre music stems from his background. His father ran a travelling German theatre company, which was responsible for providing festival and formal occasion music. Also, his uncle's daughter, Constanze, was married to Mozart (1792) and so Weber was closely exposed to Mozart's compositions. Coupled with this he was given music lessons by the brother of Joseph Haydn whilst in Salzburg. Hooked by opera he had written his first essay in the genre before the age of fifteen (The Power of Love and The Forest Maiden). Under Haydn's watchful eye, Weber composed Peter Schmoll to a plot taken from a novel by Cramer, a popular writer of the day. However, the librettist made a poor job of adaptation and provided a lifeless plot with some sloppily rhymed lyrics. In an attempt to rescue the good music and give the opera an airing a more recent adaptation was undertaken by Hasse (1944). In 1963, Peters published a new edition with new dialogue by Werner Göttig. This is based on the essence of the original and with the song lyrics this time left untouched. It is this version with the dialogue (abridged) that is used for the Marco Polo recording.

Briefly, the plot concerns two friends who lose touch with each other in the turmoil of a revolution. After a series of subplots they find each other again and live happily ever after.

The music in this opera is much lighter than many of the operatic compositions that were to follow. There is a freshness to the music with good construction and orchestration. A flavour of Mozart and Schubert can be traced in this early output of Weber. Try the opening trio [tk.2 from 30" in]. And later, a charming duet used a catchy rippling woodwind with strong rhythm with the horns to nicely complement the vocal line [tk.8]. The short finale [tk18] is well constructed and has themes skilfully knitted.

The music is delightfully fresh and deserves this revival, thanks to Marco Polo. Weber is not short of ideas, and his arias will often embrace a number of charming melodies and motifs. (CD2 tk.15 provides a good example of this and also includes the main theme of the overture.) The soloists are strong and blend well in the many duets and trios that form the framework to the score.

To fully appreciate the dialogue and follow the plot one needs to understand German since there is no translation in French or English. The dialogue which punctuates the musical numbers is fortunately short (averaging 18s) and does not detract from the listening unduly. Although I don't speak German this limitation has not prevented me from thoroughly enjoying the CD set.

The notes in English, German and French are detailed and give a good background to the writing of the opera.

Raymond J Walker


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