Weber was born in the North German Hanseatic city of
Lübeck and was related to Mozart, though distantly. He was surprisingly
prolific in a very short life cut short in London at the age of 40.
Tuberculosis carried him off while he was honouring the Covent Garden
commission for Oberon.
This box represents another Brilliant Classics coup.
These are all licensed reissues of digital tapes from the 1980s. The
performance style follows the big band school. Marriner presiding over
a much augmented Academy finds plenty of high octane aggression and
fire in the First Symphony which seems modelled on Beethovenian precedents
- principally the first two symphonies. It is not all fire and flame.
The andante has some gracefully rounded work for the oboe. The
scherzo and finale (both marked presto) are whipped
along decisively though softened by Weber's hallmark woodwind grace
figures. You could reach out and touch Marriner's choir of French Horns
in the finale. This is a bustling interpretation full of vigour and
Mozartian joviality looking forward to Rossini. I have liked this unassuming
carefree symphony since the Hans-Hubert Schönzeler RCA recording
was one of the staples of 'Morning Concert' between 0700 and 0900 on
BBC Radio 3 in the 1970s. The Second Symphony has a substantial
first movement which is longer than the other three put together. As
a work it is not as freshly imagined as the First Symphony though the
chuckling Menuetto and Finale redeem some fairly conventional
moments in the first two movements. That finale also jumps and jives
in prediction of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony - the Apotheosis
of the Dance indeed. Both symphonies were written for the Court
Orchestra of the Duke Eugen of Karlsruhe. These are works that will
easily wheedle their way into your affections though I can imagine some
of you preferring a more chamber orchestral effect. Personally I love
these Klemperer and Boult style interpretations.
If we include the famous Konzertstück there
are three Weber piano concertos. Weber planned a third numbered
piano concerto but never completed it. Instead the Konzertstück
emerged from the workbooks. Peter Rösel is a glittering stalwart
of the Edel and Berlin Classics catalogues. Blomstedt delivers a big
sound in a powerful acoustic. This is consistent in approach with Marriner's
take on the symphonies. The piano is recorded fairly closely capturing
every twist and turn of this flaming and spiritedly driven work. Weber
followed convention in having three movements in each of the two piano
concertos. If you are in the mood for the Beethoven piano concertos
- especially the first three - then try these as an alternative. They
are given to more bel canto than Beethoven's works and this is
specially evident in the chamber music intimacy of the Adagio
of No. 2. Weber holds the keys to the styles of both Beethoven and Chopin
and strikes sparks off both. The recording is a shade over-warm.
Gustav Kuhn and the same Dresden orchestra used by
Blomstedt for the piano concertos extract every last ounce of bass emphasis
from the overtures which positively bowl along. All the famous overtures
are there except Silvana the existence of which depends on recordings
rather than concert life. Weber's original mastery is best discerned
in these overtures. Euryanthe for its fantastic delicacy as well
as its Beethovenian weight. Abu Hassan (a Marriage of Figaro
extravaganza) is an example of the Mozartian alla turca style
complete with bells, drums, triangle and cymbals. Preziosa has
some winningly impressive scudding music for the strings illustrative
of suspense and again linking to the Turkish style and looking South
towards Rossini's Italy. The combustible Beethovenian gymnastics of
Beherrscher der Geister are sensational and full of the supernatural
vitality of Freischütz and Oberon. Speaking of Oberon
Kuhn makes a relaxed and delicately enjoyable job of the prelude and
scene setting before letting loose with con fuoco fireworks (2.39)
that look direct into the gaze of the Beethoven Fifth and Seventh Symphonies.
Jubel is pretty lacklustre but the disc ends with the supernatural
goings-on of Freischütz - flighty and feel-good. Any lovers
of the Rossini overtures must hear these works and acquiring this extremely
inexpensive set is the best way of doing that.
None of these discs is specially well filled. The notes
are by Dr David Doughty who now appears to be a Brilliant Classics regular.
He has certainly raised their game in the liner notes stakes. I am intrigued
by Brilliant's decision to have his notes in English only.
Brilliant have gathered together most of Weber's orchestral
music omitting the clarinet concertos. The discs do not have very long
playing times but this would serve as a pretty decent representation
of this accomplished early romantic composer.
The discs derive from licensing arrangements with ASV
(as per their recent Rimsky box), Edel and Delta. Delta hold the massive
Capriccio catalogue. Is there any chance at all that Brilliant might
start issuing the Capriccio Busoni orchestral music and the many operatic
works by Zemlinsky and Schrecker?