Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/425

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��WEBER.

compose his Roland, with which he was to enter the lists against Gluck, he knew so little French that Marmontel had to translate and explain his libretto to him bit by bit. Spontini spent 22 years in the service of the King of Prussia, bound by contract to supply German operas, and yet never took the pains to learn the language methodically. Weber, however, saw clearly the impossibility of giving full and adequate musical expression to the sentiments of a poem unless the composer be familiar with the language in which it is written.

The 1st and 2nd acts reached him Jan. 18, 1825, and the 3rd on Feb. i. He set to work Jan. 23, the first number he composed being Huon's grand air in the 1st act. He laid the work aside during the summer, but resumed it Sept. 19. The last number, the overture, was completed in London April 29, 1826.

By medical advice he took the waters at Ems, in the summer of 1825, starting from Dresden on July 3. His route lay through Naumburg to Weimar, where he made a last unsuccessful attempt to enter into close rela- tions with Goethe, and was warmly welcomed by Hummel and his family. Thence he went by Gotha to Frankfort, greeting his old friend Gottfried Weber for the last time, and then by Wiesbaden to Ems. This journey must have convinced him of his extraordinary popularity. People of all ranks vied with each other in showing him kindness, respect, and admiration. At Ems he was admitted into the circle of that accomplished man the Crown Prince of Prussia (afterwards Frederic William IV.), and his wife, an unusual distinction. But the musician tottering to his grave was no longer able to en- joy the sunshine which shone so brightly on his last days.

The time for Weber's departure for England drew on. On Feb. 5 he conducted Der Frei- schutz in Dresden for the last time, and took leave of his band, all except Fiirstenau, the well-known flute-player, who was to travel with him. He chose the route through Paris, and made the acquaintance of the principal musicians there, specially enjoying the attentions of Che- rubini, for whom he had always had a high re- spect. A performance of Boieldieu's ' La Dame blanche ' enchanted him. ' What grace ! what wit ! ' he writes to Theodor HeU, at Dresden, 'no such comic opera has been written since Figaro.' On March 5 1 he arrived in London, and was most hospitably received by Sir George Smart, then Organist of the Chapel Royal. On the 6th he went to Covent Garden theatre to view the scene of his future labours; he was recognised, and the cheers of the spectators must have assured him of his popularity in London. On March 8 he conducted a selec- tion from Der Freischutz at one of the ' ora- torio concerts/ and here his reception was even more enthusiastic, nearly every piece from the opera being encored. On the 9th the re- hearsals for 'Oberon' began, and Weber per-

i Benedict (p. 115) says March 6, but he Is wrong.

��WEBER.

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��ceived at once that he had at his disposal all the materials for a first-rate performance. To please Braham, who took the part of Huon, he composed two additional pieces, a grand scena and area(* Yes, even love'), whichBraham substituted for the grand air in the 1st act, and the prayer in the 2nd act ('Ruler of this awful hour'). The former is never sung in Germany, being far inferior in beauty to the original air, but the prayer is retained, and is indeed one of the gems of the work. The first performance took place April 12. The music went beauti- fully, and the composer had an even more enthusiastic reception than that bestowed on Rossini two or three years before. The aris- tocracy alone, with few exceptions, held aloof. Weber was not the man to show himself ob- sequious, and on the other hand his look and manner were too unpretending to be imposing. By May 29 Oberon had reached its 28th per- formance, the first 12 having been conducted by himself according to his contract.

Though his strength was constantly declining he was always ready to lend his name or his services when he could be of assistance to others. Thus he took part in concerts given April 27, May i, 10, and 18 by Miss Hawes, Fiirstenau, Kemble, and Braham, nay, even at one of Miss Paton's on May 30, six days before his death. A concert of his own on May 26 was a failure. The day was badly chosen, and Weber in his state of utter exhaustion had omitted two or three social formalities. Among other music given at this concert was his Jubel-Cantata (1818), put to different words, and a song (' From Chindara's warbling fount ') just com- posed for Miss Stephens, who sang it to his ac- companiment. It was his last composition, and the last time his fingers touched the keyboard.

The preparations for his journey home were made in haste, for Weber was filled with an in- expressible longing to see his family once more. But his own words to a friend before leaving Germany, that he 'was going to London to die,' were fulfilled. Far from home and kindred he sank under his sufferings during the night of June 4. His body was laid in the grave at Moorfields Chapel, to the strains of Mo- zart's Requiem, on June 21. The funeral cere- monies were conducted as if for a person of the highest rank, and there was an enormous crowd. In 1 844 the coffin was removed to Germany, and interred in the family vault at Dresden.

��Of all the German musicians of the I9th century none has exercised a greater influence over his own generation and that succeeding it than Weber ; indeed there is scarcely a branch of artistic life in which his impulse is not still felt. The historian of German music in the I9th century will have to make Weber his starting- point. His influence was even greater than that of Beethoven, for deeply imbued though Bee- thoven was with the modern spirit, he adhered as a rule to the traditions of the i8th century. These Weber casts aside, and starts after fresh

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