Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – Honorable Mention – Weber Der Freischütz

I’m giving an honorable mention to Carl Maria von Weber for his great opera, Der Freischütz, premiered in 1821. Weber’s operas opened the path for Germanic Romantic opera. I hadn’t heard Weber’s operas before I heard Wagner’s operas, so when I started listening to Der Freischütz, I heard a lot of Wagnerian harmonic structures. Wagner was strongly influenced by Weber’s works.  Wagner gave the eulogy at the reburial of Weber (who died in London) when he was transferred back to Dresden. 

Carl Maria von Weber’s family knew the Mozarts. In fact, Constanze, Wolfgang’s wife, was Carl’s cousin. Both families were deeply entrenched in music. Carl was taught from an early age, knowing how to play piano and sing by age 4. 

Der Freischütz was an opera late in his young career (Weber’s life was, like many in that era, cut short by disease or poor health. He died at 39 of tuberculosis). It is an opera with spoken dialogue rather than recitatives, similar to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The story is about a marksman, Max, who lost a shooting competition, and apparently needs to win the next day’s competition in order to be able to marry his loved, Agathe. Another man, Kaspar also tried to woo Agathe, but Agathe chose Max. Now Kaspar had made a deal with Samiel, the “Black Huntsman” who could produce magic bullets. A person got seven magic bullets. The first six flew true to their target and the seventh belonged to the Evil One to do as he desired. Kaspar feared the Evil One would use that last bullet against himself, and wanted to exchange his soul for Max’s soul so he could get three more years of living. This is where the story gets dark. The question is, when Max gets the magic bullets, who is going to die the next day?

The music is gorgeous, rich and engaging. Particularly enthralling is the scene at the Wolf’s Glen. This is where Weber engages the listener and viewer in intense, dark music. We move away from the classical era and into real programmatic music. The music to this point in the opera is strong classical style, but, man, this scene at the Wolf’s Glen is dark and foreboding. You can hear the wellspring of Wagner’s creations. It’s really fantastic. This opera needs to be performed more frequently. It’s really great music. The story is compelling. Oh, and, spoiler alert, the female characters don’t get murdered. 

Here is the Wolf’s Glen scene

And here is the whole opera. 

#11 – Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E major, Op. 22

#12 – Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps

#13 – Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

#14 – Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Weber Der Freischütz

Coleman Lonely Woman

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125

Tchaikovsky Nutcracker

Jobim Girl From Ipanema

Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

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