For any astute Weber collectors out there, this is not the same set that Brilliant Classics released in 2003. However, there is some duplication; the symphonies under Marriner and the concert works with Rösel and Blomstedt reappear here. Otherwise, there are two new discs, and even more music than the previous set, so it should be all the Weber you'll ever need. There is a major issue with this set, but more on that later
The two discs that are not new deserved to stay; Weber's early symphonies and concertos are charming, and these are reliable and intelligent performances. Rösel and Blomstedt are particularly outstanding together, so it's good to have this disc back in print. As for the Clarinet concertos, they were a serious omission for the first set, and Brilliant Classics seems eager to rectify that mistake with two excellent accounts from AS&V. Emma Johnson plays both concertos exceptionally well, and she has two very fine conductors to work with. Why there isn't more clarinet music included on this disc is beyond me; there was room, and certainly more music would make this set even more competitive.
That's also an issue with the overtures disc. Sure, it's great to see underrated maestro Otmar Suitner in anything, and Marek Janowski is similarly welcome, but the decision eliminate conductor Gustav Kuhn entirely means that not only does the Der Freischültz overture get cut for no reason at all, but we lose an opportunity to hear the great Staatskapelle Dresden in even more substantial fare. Kuhn originally had an entire overtures disc to himself on the earlier set, and conducted seven pieces. Now in 2014, we get six. It's mind-boggling, especially from a label that can dig up so many gems. But I must confess, what we do get is nothing short of wonderful. The Staatskapelle Berlin has its own rich musical history, and we do get to close the set with those wonderful Dresden forces.
I liked the 2003 set very much, and it's great to see Brilliant Classics updating their products a decade later with new performances and notes. Where I took issue was the short playing times of the earlier set, so it's maddening that the label would take away music for the new set. If you're new to the composer, I recommend this with open arms, but it's hard to praise a set that messes with the customer, and that's what happens here.
Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman