Weber‘s Der Freischütz has been well-served over the years, with perhaps Carlos Kleiber's DG recording topping the list (and Kubelík closely bringing up the rear). One should not forget Kleiber père (with a cast that includes Elisabeth Grümmer) and Eugen Jochim on DG (with Irmgard Seefried). More recently, there has been a push towards period instrument performances, spearheaded by the excellent (albeit trunctaed) Insula Orchestra under Laurence Equilbey on Warner on their The Freischütz Project, while Marek Janowski on Pentatone boasts Lise Davidsen at the head of a fine cast.
The period instrument aspect seems to foreground the composer's imagination: Weber's use of the orchestra is nothing less than inspired. Weber's opera, to a libretto by Friedrich Kind 9itself based on a story by Friedrich August Apel and Friedrich Laun). The plot includes everything that could be construed as archetypically Romantic:its emphasis on Nature and the supernatural (in particular the Wolf's Glen scene), magic (the magic bullet), a hermit (Wanderer, anyone?) and a shooting contest, all wrapped up in the idyllic, if troubled, love of Max and Agathe. Jacobs' Freiburg strings (8:7:5:4:4) bring translucency and detail to the performance.
Jacobs has ingeniously made alterations to what one might expect from the Kleiber or Kubelík performances: most immediately, the second track, “Allerbarmen,” for the Hermit. This is absent on other recordings, and certainly allows for the Hermit’s appearance later in the opera to make much more sense. Jacos uses music from the Adagio of the Overture plus the main theme of the Hermit's deus ex machina appearance in the finale:
Jacobs and abridged Insula share Christian Immler as the Hermit, a singer much in demand today and of huge expressive power. After this section, there follows a duet for the Hermit and Agathe transposed from the final scene:
... before we light on more familiar territory, the chorus “Viktoria,” here in a wondrously vital performance:
This is far from the only alteration: an inserted Romanze for Juno in Act 1 Scene 4 uses music from Schubert's Singspiel Des Teufels Lustschloss, for instance, and there is some restored dialogue.
Talking of expressive power, with the Overture, one can hear the sheer timbral variety Jacobs brings to teh score with the incrediblt Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. This is a magnificenltly shaded account, taking us straight into Weber's twilit world of myth:
The casting here is superb: here is Act 2's Wie naht mich schollmmer, sung by Polina Pasztircsák as Agathe:
Complementing Pasztircsák's Agathe is Kateryna Kasper's Ännchen, whose third act Romance and Aria, “Erst träumte meiner sel‘gen Base” is the epitome of Weber's style:
The Max is Maximilian Schmitt, possessed of the most remarkable tenor voice, capable of the upmost sweetness of tone, as in this Terzetto, surely one of Weber's most beautiful utterings:
The Samiel is the German actor Max Urlacher, while bass Dmitry Ivashchenko as Kaspar is superb (Ivashchenko sang Osmin in Jacobs' Entführung).
This is the most significant of modern performances of Freischütz; it would have been a hard ask to choose between this and the Equilbey had the latter been complete, however.
At the time of writing, the Jacobs box is discounted by 5% (follow the link below). Thsi is a handsome box, remniscent of opera boxes of old: full libretto with translation, plus essays, adding up to a 248-page booklet