This 1995 "live" recording shows Harnoncourt's attention to detail and his ability to impel his excellent Berlin Radio Orchestra and singers to very strong and meaningful performances. The sound is excellent and it is obvious he has demanded that all reach for the highest levels of artistic ability. This a radio performance as the audience applauds only at the end.
Endrik Wollrich, who has become one of Europe's leading opera tenors, delivers his big solo with fire and while his voice has a very slight but recognizable throaty sound, it nevertheless is attractive, solid, innocent and perfectly evenly and securely produced throughout his range. There is insufficient dialogue between Max and Kaspar in Act I but Matti Salminen's Kaspar demonstrates some wry acting ability by being easy-going and non-threatening until he orders Max to "shoot" the eagle and then when alone turns to disclose his real intention to trap Max belting out his great aria "Scweig...Triumph" with dark, gripping aggression. This transformation is a choice piece of acting bringing out Kaspar's devious nature. Ännchen, Christine Schäfer, paints a splendid picture of youthful feminine longing in her Act I aria with Harnoncourt giving her slight meaningful pauses allowing for enchanting emphasis. Her Act III aria fares less well, missing the playfulness and fun despite singing with absolutely gorgeous voice; in this aria, however, she might just as well have been singing "la,la,la". Schäfer is not much of an actress. I saw her Gilda and although she looks beautiful and sings beautifully she has little depth in interpretation, just essentially standing and delivering.
Now the Slovak soprano,Luba Orgonasova ,as Agathe, is quite the opposite, being very sensitive with a full panoply of dynamic variation in her Act I aria ending with happy delight and powerful joy at seeing Max's approach, swelling with abundant resources to ripe voluptuousness. In her Act III prayer aria, showing lovely soft high notes which she never tries to belt, caressing and moving, tenderly and touchingly throughout as befits the words, she displays a wide range of contrast, from gentle to fireworks and always melodious.
Harnoncourt certainly knows how to accomplish the required agitation and excitability creating crescendos within arias and musical climaxes and interplay with all his forces. E.g., his is the only version I know where Kaspar's aria contains an accellerando ending. His horns are featured especially in driving the Act II entr'acte. The Bridesmaids chorus zips along, the Act I dance is sprightly and the Hunters' Chorus shows they are impatient to begin the shooting. This conductor's emphases, stresses, underscorings and ability to communicate emotion of the moment are unparalleled in my other and many Freischütz recordings and he carries this sweep of attention not just to the orchestra but also to the singers!
Kurt Moll, as the Hermit, is incomparable with rock-solid, beautiful, mellifluous, rich flowing tones while Wolfgang Holzmair sings both Ottokar and Killian very well, a sensible approach and confirming this was a concert version, as does the use of Schäfer as a Bridesmaid soloist. The Wolfsschlucht always has that inherent problem of trying to make the opening chorus spooky which every single endeavor, including here, fails. However, Hannoncourt and his orchestra superbly support the frightening aspects of the whole scene by the widest dynamics, from ppp to fff, and abrupt tempo changes to guide the turmoil, dramatics and tension with electifying results, draining all potentialities for downright forceful excitement. Samiel, for once, doesn't sound like he is yelling from afar through a megaphone but, alas, he's not very scary. This nominee for several opera awards is very highly recommended.