The Eberhard Weber volume in the ECM :Rarum series is another one of those revelatory spotlights on a player and composer whose entire identity has been shaped by his association with the label. The revelation is that Weber's bass playing and rainbow sense of harmonic interplay has in turn been perhaps more integral to shaping the sound and identity of the label. This collection of ten tracks showcases Weber's contributions as the leader of his fine, longstanding band Colours, his solo projects, and his contributions to the recordings of Gary Burton, Pat Metheny (who could forget his elegant, expressionistic bass playing on Watercolors, Metheny's sophomore ECM effort?), Ralph Towner, and Jan Garbarek.
Carl Maria von Weber's piano music, with the exception of Invitation to the Dance, is not nearly as well known as his operas, but it deserves more attention. Michael Endres makes a strong case for the music in this two-disc set. The most significant works, the four sonatas, are full of drama, colorful pianism, and lyrical melodies, particularly in Endres' hands. The sonatas are on a similar scale to those of Beethoven and Schubert, with the drama built of sharp contrasts in key, humor, and dynamics, and with beautiful, cantabile slow movements. Weber, like Beethoven, also took advantage of the size and scope of the piano's sound. Endres vividly brings out the drama and the brilliance of virtuosic passages, while maintaining a sense of refinement and ease with the music. The waltzes are particularly polished, but Endres' also recognizes their folk elements and gives them a wonderful energy and sparkle. The showpieces of Weber's piano works are the sets of variations, obviously written to impress audiences. Again, Endres handles the technical challenges easily and cleanly. In the second set here, the Variations on the aria "Vien'qua dorina bella," he is always aware that the theme was originally a vocal work, playing with song-like phrasing and coloring. The sound of the recording could be a little richer, but it doesn't hurt Endres superb performance.