Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/424

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408

��WEBER

��of dramatic 1 music. The only really satisfac- tory part of the visit was his intercourse with Beethoven, who welcomed him heartily. 8 At one time Beethoven had not valued Weber's compositions at a high rate, but his opinion of the composer of Der Freischutz had risen enormously. He did not go to Euryanthe : there would have been no object in his doing so, now that his troubles with his hearing had settled down into total deafness.

Weber left Vienna Nov. 5, conducted the 5th representation of Der Freischutz in Prague on the 7th, and arrived in Dresden on the loth. By his desire Benedict remained in Vienna, to keep him informed of the pro- gress of Euryanthe; but what he heard was so far from pleasant that he did not venture to report it. Weber had put his full strength into the work, intending it as a demonstra- tion of his power and capacity. With the keenest anxiety he followed its progress, mark- ing the impression it produced, not only in Vienna, but in every theatre which performed it on the strength of its being an opera of Weber's. When he found that in most places it received only a succte d'egtime, and that opinions as to its value were divided, even amongst unbiassed connoisseurs, he fell into deep depres- sion. Benedict, on his return from Vienna, thought him looking ten years older, and all the symptoms of his malady had increased. To illness it was undoubtedly to be attributed that all his old energy, nay, even his love of music, for the time abandoned him. His compositions seemed to recede into the far distance, and in the summer of 1824 he writes in a bitter mood to his wife from Marienbad, where he was taking the waters, 'I have not an idea, and do not believe I ever composed anything. Those operas were not mine after all.' When asked how he did, he would reply, *I cough, and am lazy.' During fifteen months he composed absolutely nothing, except one little French romance.

Many disappointments, however, as Eury- anthe brought him, there were places where it was at once valued as it deserved. In Dres- den the first performance took place March 31,

1824, with a success that equalled Weber's highest expectations. As an instance, Tieck pronounced it to contain passages which Gluck and Mozart might have envied. And as in stage matters the first impression is apt to be the lasting one, even down to a later generation, the people of Dresden to this day understand and love Euryanthe. In Leipzig it was much the same, the opera occupying a place in the reper- toire from May 1824. Rochlitz heard it May 24,

1825, and next day wrote Weber almost the best and most discerning criticism of the time. 8 In Berlin there was considerable delay in producing the opera, for which Spontini received more than his share of the blame. The first performance took place on Dec. 23, 1825, and in Berlin too,

i See SCHUBERT, vol. Hi. p. 3386. J See BEETHOVEN, vol. I. p. 196 a. < Julius (p. 309) gives the most important part of hU letter.

��WEBER.

where Weber's most devoted adherents were to be found, the effect it produced was great and lasting. The composer conducted in person, though, suffering as he was from mortal illness, it took all his indomitable energy to make the mind rise superior to the body. It was his last appearance in Berlin.

Weber knew that his days were numbered. A model husband and father, the thought of his wife and children was never absent from his mind ; to provide for them to the utmost of his power was not only his most sacred duty, but his highest happiness. No one can fail to be touched by the tenderness and devotion which breathe in the letters to his wife, many of which are printed by his sons in the biography. After quitting Stuttgart, he had regulated his affairs in the most exemplary manner. He lived very comfortably in Dresden, and was able even to afford himself small luxuries. His great de- sire was to leave enough to place his family above fear of poverty. It was his love for them which roused him from the languor and depression into which he had fallen after the completion of Euryanthe. The im- mediate impulse was a letter from Charles Kemble, then lessee of Co vent Garden theatre, inviting him to write an opera in English. London had also participated in the Freischutz mania, no less than three theatres playing it at the same time. Kemble added a request that he would come to London to produce the new opera in person, and conduct Der Freischutz and Preciosa. Weber did not hesitate long, and the two soon agreed on ' Oberon ' as the sub- ject of the opera, the libretto to be drawn up by Planche". The terms took longer to arrange. Kemble's offer of 500 Weber considered too low, and Kemble thought Weber's demands much too high. At last, however, he agreed to give 1000.* Before the affair was concluded Weber consulted his physician, Dr. Hedenus, as to the possibility of the journey in his then state of health. The reply was that if he would give up conducting and composing, and take a year's complete rest in Italy, his life might be prolonged for another five or six years. If, on the other hand, he accepted the English com- mission, his life would be measured by months, perhaps by weeks. Weber replied by his fa- vourite motto, ' As God will,' and settled to go.

Although he had undertaken to compose this opera from a desire to make money, he would not have been the highminded artist he was if he had not set to work at it with all his might. So much was he in earnest that, at the age of thirty-seven, and with one foot in the grave, he began to learn English systematically, and was soon able to carry on his own correspon- dence in English, and when in London aston- ished everybody by the ease with which he spoke. In reference to this fact it is worth while to notice the behaviour of other composers in like circumstances. When Piccinni came to Paris to

So says Benedict, p. 106. and elsewhere. Max von Weber's account varies slightly.

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