Weber

Born: 1786

Died: 1826

Carl Maria von Weber

When Weber's opera Der Freischütz received its triumphant premiere in 1821 the curtain had been finally raised on the new Romantic movement.

Weber’s father was a keen amateur violinist and dreamt of his children becoming great musicians. His niece Constanze was married to Mozart (making Weber Mozart’s first cousin by marriage). His son did not, on the face of it, seem cut out for music – he was born with a diseased hip and walked with a limp all his life – but he was to become a precociously talented musician.

Carl Maria’s first teacher was his stepbrother, a pupil of Haydn; his next was Haydn’s composer brother Michael. By 14 Weber had composed his first opera (Das Waldmädchen). By 1811 he had had a further three produced. At the same time he had established himself as a piano virtuoso and, two years later, was made conductor of the German Opera in Prague.

The King of Saxony invited him to take charge of the German Opera Theatre in Dresden and Weber opened his first season there in 1817. Here he befriended a lawyer and writer called Friedrich Kind and suggested to him the idea for what was to become his masterpiece, Der Freischütz. Its composition occupied him for three years. Spontini was the ruling master of opera in Germany, dictating the Italian-French musical tradition from the Berlin Opera against a rising German nationalism. When Der Freischütz received its triumphant premiere in 1821 the curtain had been finally raised on the new Romantic movement. After the moderate success of his next venture, Euryanthe, Weber was obliged to go to Marienbad for a cure for his tuberculosis, returning to begin writing Oberon, commissioned by London’s Covent Garden. He was well enough in April 1826 to travel to England for the premiere, which met with huge success. Weber knew he was a doomed man and a few months later he died. He was buried in London, his remains later transferred to Dresden in 1844.

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