The New International Encyclopædia/Weber, Karl Maria von
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Weber, Karl Maria von
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WEBER, Karl Maria von (1786-1826). A famous German composer, born at Eutin, Oldenburg, December 18, 1786. His musical training began at a very early age. His father, a shiftless musician, was anxious to make him a musical prodigy like Mozart and exhibit him for profit. Up to 1800 he received lessons from his stepbrother Fritz; J. P. Heuschkel at Hildburghausen, who grounded him thoroughly in piano playing; Michael Haydn at Salzburg; and at Munich, from Valesi in singing, and Kalcher, under whose direction he composed his first opera, Die Macht der Liebe und des Weines, the score of which, with other youthful compositions, was accidentally burned. At Freiberg in Saxony Weber produced in November, 1800, an opera, Das Waldmädchen, which failed, however, of lasting success there or elsewhere. The impulse to the composing of operas so early in his career came from his association with stage life through his father's wandering troupe. At Salzburg, where the family was again in 1801, his third opera, Peter Schmoll und seine Freunde, was privately heard at the house of his teacher, Michael Haydn; subsequently it was given at Augsburg. Important for Weber was his association as pupil and friend with Abbé Vogler at Vienna in 1803. In 1804, through Vogler's influence, he was appointed kapellmeister at Breslau. In 1806 he accepted the post of private secretary to Duke Louis of Württemberg. At Stuttgart, in 1810, preparations for the production of his opera Silvana were interrupted by his arrest at rehearsal. His father was charged with having misappropriated money. To shield him, Karl Maria took the disgrace upon himself, and both were banished. He went to Mannheim and Darmstadt and completed his comic opera Abu Hassan (1810), Weber had no important appointment until 1813, when he was called to Prague as conductor of the Landständisches Theatre. Among the singers he engaged was Caroline Brandt, whom he had heard at a performance of his Silvana in Frankfort and with whom he now fell in love. Upon their marriage (1817) Caroline, though in her prime, left the stage and devoted her life to him. Her influence on Weber was beneficial in the highest degree. In the same year Weber, owing to the mark he had made in Prague, was called to Dresden as conductor of the opera. His work here as conductor was of the highest importance to the cause of German opera, notwithstanding that he often was obliged to overcome the prejudices of the King, and the intrigues of the Italian party, headed by Morlacchi, the conductor at the Italian opera.
A chance discovery of Apel's Gespensterbuch in Dresden led him to take up the subject of the Freischütz, and Friedrich Kind wrote a libretto for him. The composer worked three years on the score, though not uninterruptedly, since his Invitation à la valse (dedicated to his wife) and other minor works, besides his Jubilee Mass and Preciosa, were written during this period. Der Freischütz was the first musical work brought out at the new Schauspielhaus, Berlin, where it was produced under Weber's direction, June 18, 1821, and achieved such a triumph as rarely has fallen to any stage work. Throughout Germany its success was equally great, and in London it was performed at three theatres simultaneously. His Euryanthe, produced in Vienna in 1823, was less successful there, but was received with acclamation in Dresden and Leipzig and especially in Berlin. But consumption began to make inroads upon his strength, and it was with a desperate desire to provide for his family that he accepted Charles Kemble's offer of £1000 to compose Oberon and direct its production in London. Oberon was produced at Covent Garden, April 12, 1826, and was received with unbounded enthusiasm, Weber survived only a few weeks, dying June 5, 1820. In 1844 his body was removed from Moorfield's Chapel to Dresden, where Wagner, who had arranged for the occasion a dirge on themes from Euryanthe, also pronounced a funeral oration.
Weber's Freischütz struck a national note, and through it he became the founder of the romantic school of German opera. His influence on Wagner was very marked. The finale of the first act and the march in the second act of Tannhäuser, and the first finale in Lohengrin, besides minor passages in both these works, show unmistakably the influence of Weber in structure. Wagner's admiration for Weber was unbounded and Weber's use of the so-called Tomb Motive in Euryanthe is believed to have had considerable influence on Wagner in shaping his system of leading motives. Weber's Leyer und Schwert are among the most spirited German patriotic songs, and several of his piano works, notably the Invitation à la valse, the E flat major Polonaise, and the Concertstück for piano and orchestra, are brilliantly effective.
Bibliography. The best biographies of Weber are Jähns, K. M. von Weber, eine Lebensskizze (Leipzig, 1873), and the one by his son, Max Maria von Weber, K. M. von Weber, ein Lebensbild (Leipzig, 1864-68). Consult also the works by Rau (Leipzig, 1865); Benedict (New York, 1881); Reissmann (Berlin, 1886); Curzon, Musiciens du temps passé (Paris, 1893); and Gehrmann (Berlin, 1899).