Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/411

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


WEBER.

considered Vogler's alterations improvements is not surprising ; for his acquaintance with Bach, like his knowledge of history in general, was small ; and he knew as little as Vogler did of the original intention of the Chorales in question. Weber's attraction towards literary work, of which traces may be seen as far back as 1802, was very marked about this time. He came forward frequently as an author between 1809 and 1818, after that at longer inter- vals, and not at all after 1821. In Stutt- gart he began a musical novel, 'Tonkünstlers Leben,' which had been accepted by Cotta of Tübingen, and was to have been ready by Easter 1811 ; but the time went by, and it was never finished. A fragment published in the Morgenblatt' for Dec. 1809, contains some severe remarks on Beethoven's 3rd and 4th Sym- phonies. Mozart was Weber's ideal musician, and at that time he was quite impervious to Beethoven's music. Nägeli of Zurich having pointed out a subtle resemblance between Weber and Beethoven (which really is observable, in the Momento Capriccioso for instance, and still more in his later works), Weber wrote to him from Mannheim, 'Flattering as this might appear to many, it is not agreeable to me. In the first place, I detest everything in the shape of imita- tion ; and in the second, my ideas are so opposite to Beethoven's that I cannot imagine it possible we should ever meet. His fervid, almost in- credible, inventive powers, are accompanied by so much confusion in the arrangement of his ideas, that his early works alone interest me; the later ones are to me a bewildering chaos, an obscure straining after novelty, lit up it is true by divine flashes of genius, which only serve to show how great he might be if he would but curb his ri9tous imagination. I, of course, cannot lay claim to the genius of Beethoven; all I hope is .... that each separate stroke of mine tells.' 1 This passage, which well bears printing, shows that Weber by no means over- appreciated himself, but was anxious to guard his own independence, and uttered his opinions in a straightforward manner. He began now to appear more frequently as a critic. All criticism on himself he paid great attention to, and was fully convinced of the value of good musical censure, so he set to work with his friends to elevate the art in general. Towards the close of 1810, he, Gottfried Weber, Alexander von Dusch, and Meyerbeer, founded the so-called ' Harmon- ischer Verein,' with the general object of further- ing the cause of art, and the particular one of extending thorough and impartial criticism. The regularly constituted members were required to be both composers and literary men, but writers were admitted, if possessed of sufficient musical knowledge. The motto of the society was ' the elevation of musical criticism by musicians them- selves,' a sound principle which, then promul- gated for the first time in musical Germany, has shown itself full of vitality down to the present day. In this branch Weber was the

1 Kohl's ' Musikerbriefe.' 2nd ed. 178.

WEBER.

395

direct precursor of Schumann. He and Gottfried Weber also considered the foundation of a musi- cal journal, and though the plan was never carried out, it was long before Weber gave it up. He was still occupied with it even during the Dresden period of his life. Other members of the society were Gansbacher, Berger the singer, Danzi, and Berner. The existence of the society was a secret, and each member adopted a nom de plume. Weber signed him- self Melos; Gottfried Weber, Giusto; Gäns- bacher, Triole, etc. Here, again, we are reminded of Schumann and the ' Davidsbündler.' The two Webers were active in their exertions, and their efforts were undeniably successful.

Vogler was proud of his disciples, especially of Weber and Meyerbeer. 'Oh' he is said to have exclaimed, 'how sorry I should have been, if I had had to leave the world before I formed those two. There is within me a something which I have never been able to call forth, but those two will do it.' Weber however found existence at Darmstadt hard after the pleasant never-to-be-forgotten days at Mannheim. He got away as often as he could, gave concerts at Aschaffenburg, Mannheim, Carlsruhe, and Frankfort, and found time also to compose. Ideas flowed in upon him, many to be used only in much later works. For instance, the ideas of the first chorus of fairies, and of the ballet- music in the third act of ' Oberon,' and the chief subject of the ' Invitation a la Valse ' were in his mind at this period. While on the look-out for a subject for an opera he and Dusch hit upon 'Der Freischütz,' a story by Apel, then just pub- lished, and Dusch set to work to turn it into a libretto. For the present however it did not get beyond the beginning ; not till seven years later did Weber begin the work which made his reputation. He succeeded in bringing out 'Silvana' at Frankfort on Sept. 16, 1810, 2 when, in spite of unpropitious circumstances, it pro- duced a very favourable impression. The part of Silvana was taken by Caroline Brandt, Weber's future wife ; and Margarethe Lang was the first soprano. Having completed by Oct. 17 six easy sonatas for piano and violin, for which André had given him a commission, Weber soon after set out for Offenbach, but had the mortifi- cation of having them refused, on the ground that they were too good for André's purpose. 3 At André's he saw for the first time an auto- graph of Mozart's, and his behaviour on the occasion touchingly expressed his unbounded veneration for Mozart's genius. He laid it carefully on the table, and on bended knees pressed his forehead and lips to it, gazed at it with tears in his eyes, and then handed it back with the words, Happy the paper on which his hand has rested ! '

For a short time there seemed a prospect of Weber's securing a permanent appointment in his beloved Mannheim. At a concert there on Nov. 19, he produced his remodelled overture

2 According to the register of the theatre. Jähns. p. 103. 3 Published later by Simrock of Bonn.