> WEBER Brilliant Classics set [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl Maria Von WEBER (1786-1826)

Symphony No. 1 (1812) [24.51]
Symphony No. 2 (1813) [18.16]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1810) [20.26]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1812) [23.04]
Konzertstück (1821) [17.04]
Euryanthe Overture (1823) [8.34]
Abu Hassan Overture (1811) [3.32]
Preziosa Overture (1820) [8.13]
Beherrscher der Geister Overture (1804?) [5.39]
Oberon Overture (1826) [8.48]
Jubel-Ouvertüre (1818) [7.46]
Der Freischütz Overture (1821) [10.04]
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner (symphonies)
rec. Abbey Road Studios, London, 1982, DDD
Peter Rösel (piano)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Herbert Blomstedt (piano concertos)
Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany, 1984, DDD
Staatskapelle Dresden/Gustav Kuhn
Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany, 1985, DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99935 [43.43+60.59+53.22]

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?

Rob Barnett


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