Weber Carl Maria von
(1786 – 1826)
Carl Maria von Weber a cousin of Mozart’s wife Constanze was trained as a musician from his childhood the son of a versatile musician who had founded his own travelling theatre company. He made a favourable impression as a pianist and then as a music director notably in the opera-houses of Prague and Dresden. Here he introduced various reforms and was a pioneer of the craft of conducting without the use of violin or keyboard instrument. As a composer he won a lasting reputation with the first important Romantic German opera Der Freisch?tz.
The opera Der Freisch?tz (The Marksman) first staged in Berlin in 1821 blends many of the ingredients typical of German Romanticism simple peasant virtues mingling with the magic and latent evil of the forest where the hero’s magic bullets are forged at midnight. The grand heroic-Romantic opera Euryanthe is better known for its overture as is the opera Oberon written for London in 1826.
Weber’s two concertos and the concertino for clarinet were written for the clarinettist Heinrich Baermann. Weber also wrote two piano concertos and a Konzertst?ck for piano and orchestra for his own use as well as a useful Horn Concertino and Bassoon Concerto. His Aufforderung zum Tanze (Invitation to the Dance) is well known in an orchestral version of a work originally written for piano. Recommended Recordings
Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 / Concertino
Invitation to the Dance
Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Polonaise brillante Op. 72
Konzertst?ck Op. 79
Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
Dances and Marches from Die Drei Pintos Turandot & Silvana
Weber’s chamber music includes a Clarinet Quintet and a Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano successors to the concertos and concertino for Baermann. Recommended Recording
Grand Duo Concertant Op. 48
Quintet Op. 34 / Variations Op. Posth & Op. 33
Aufforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance) is a charming programme piece following the progress of an invitation to dance as a young man escorts his partner to the dance-floor and engages in polite conversation. Weber’s other piano compositions include four sonatas for the instrument. Recommended Recordings
Piano Works Vol. 1
Sonata Op. 24 / Variations Opp. 2 & 40
Invitation to the Dance Op. 65
Piano Works Vol. 2
Sonata Op. 39 / Variations Opp. 6 & 55 Grande Polonaise Op. 21
Piano Works Vol. 3
Sonata Op. 49 / Variations Opp. 5 7 9 Momento capriccioso Op. 12
Piano Works Vol. 4
Sonata Op. 70 / Variations Op. 28 Les Adieux Op. 81 / Rondo brillante Polacca brillante
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
(born Eutin ?18 November 1786; died London 5 June 1826).
He studied in Salzburg (with Michael Haydn) Munich (J.N. Kalcher) and Vienna (Abb? Vogler) becoming Kapellmeister at Breslau (1804) and working for a time at W?rttemberg (1806) and Stuttgart (1807). With help from Franz Danzi intellectual stimulation from his friends G?nsbacher Meyerbeer Gottfried Weber and Alexander von Dusch and the encouragement of concert and operatic successes in Munich (especially Abu Hassan) Prague and Berlin he settled down as opera director in Prague (1813-16). There he systematically reorganized the theatre’s operations and built up the nucleus of a German company concentrating on works mostly French that offered an example for the development of a German operatic tradition. But his searching reforms (extending to scenery lighting orchestral seating rehearsal schedules and salaries) led to resentment. Not until his appointment as Royal Saxon Kapellmeister at Dresden (1817) and the unprecedented triumph of Der Freisch?tz (1821) in Berlin and throughout Germany did his championship of a true German opera win popular support. Official opposition continued both from the Italian opera establishment in Dresden and from Spontini in Berlin; Weber answered critics with the grand heroic opera Euryanthe (1823 Vienna). His rapidly deteriorating health and his concem to provide for his family induced him to accept the invitation to write an English opera for London; he produced Oberon at Covent Garden in April 1826. Despite an enthusiastic English reception and every care for his health this last joumey hastened his decline; he died from tuberculosis at 39.
Weber’s Romantic leanings can be seen in the novel emotional flavour of his music and its relevance to emergent German nationalism his delicate receptivity to nature and to literary and pictorial impressions his parallel activities as critic virtuoso pianist and Kapellmeister his dedication to the evolution of a new kind of opera uniting all the arts and above all his wish to communicate feeling. His role as a father-figure of musical Romanticism was acknowledged by those who succeeded him in the movement from Berlioz and Wagner to Debussy and Mahler. His melodic and harmonic style is rooted in classical principles but as he matured he experimented with chromaticism (the diminished 7th chord was a particular favourite). He also was among the subtlest of orchestrators writing for unusual but dramatically apt and vivid instrumental combinations (clarinet and hom muted and unmuted strings etc). All his most successful music including the songs and concertos is to some degree dramatically inspired.
Weber won his widest audience with Freisch?tz outwardly a Singspiel celebrating German folklore and country life using an idiom touched by German folksong. Through his skilful use of motifs and his careful harmonic visual and instrumental designs notably for the Wolf’s Glen scene the outstanding example in music of the early Romantic treatment of the sinister and the supernatural – he gave this work a new creative status. Euryanthe despite a weak libretto makes a further advance in the unity of harmonic and formal structures moving towards continuous freely composed opera. In Oberon Weber reverted to separate numbers to suit English taste yet the work retains his characteristically subtle motivic handling and depiction of both natural and supernatural elements. Of his other works some of the German songs the colouristic Konzertst?ck for piano and orchestra the dramatic clarinet and bassoon concertos and the virtuoso Grand duo concertant for clarinet and piano deserve special mention.