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Classical Composers A-Z: Carl Maria Von Weber

Peter Wintersgill paints a brief word portrait of Carl Maria Von Weber, the first operatic composer in the romantic nationalistic tradition.

Born
18th November, 1786, in Eutin, near Lubeck, North Germany

Father
Franz Anton, musician and impressario, uncle of Mozart's wife.

Mother
Genoveva, father's second wife, singer and actress. who died in 1798.

Childhood and Adolescence
Was taught as choirboy in Salzburg by Michael Haydn, then by Kalcher, organist in Munich. Developed early as a pianist, but was no Mozart.

Wrote his first opera and six variations for piano at 14. Had lessons from Vogler in Vienna at 17. Wrote his second opera, Peter Schmoll, at 16.

Became conductor of Breslau theatre at 18, being good at administration.

Adult Life
He wrote his first two symphonies in 1807, his next opera Silvana and Incidental music to Turandot produced in Stuttgart.

He moved about a great deal, living in turn in Mannheim, Prague and Dresden. In 1811 he wrote his opera Abu Hassan, besides the Silvana Variations, both clarinet concertos, the bassoon concerto and two piano concertos.

In 1818 he wrote the Mass in E flat, but church music wasn't really his forte. He wrote a fair amount of piano music, including four sonatas in 1812.

In Dresden he replaced the Italian tradition in opera by a new German one, which went down well with a certain nationalist streak in the German make -up. In a way he anticipated Wagner in his style, also in his ability as a critic.

In 1815 he wrote the Clarinet Quintet. He started the opera Die Drei Pintos in 1820, but never finished it.

His orchestral music, while not extensive, was quite varied, the best known item, The Invitation to the Dance (1819), being followed by his Konzertstuck for piano and orchestra in 1821. That year also saw the premiere of Der Freischutz in Berlin, which was a great success. This is strictly a Singspiel, a kind of opera with spoken dialogue, as with Purcell's Fairy Queen.

In 1823 out came Euryanthe, the opera Schubert disliked so much, with rather a weak libretto. This rather anticipated Lohengrin and had its premiere in Vienna. At this time he met Beethoven.

After this his health gave him problems. He was developing TB, known at the time as consumption. It was a serious disease then and often fatal, and liable to run a long and unpredictable course.

His last opera, Oberon, was produced at Covent Garden in London in 1826 with an English libretto.

Seven weeks after the premiere he died of TB at Sir George Smart's house, where he was staying, on the 5th December, 1826, aged 40. His body was later sent to Dresden for burial, where Wagner gave a funeral oration.

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