Carl Maria von Weber

Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826)[1][2] was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist[3] and critic, and was one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school.

Weber's operas Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon greatly influenced the development of the Romantische Oper (Romantic opera) in Germany. Der Freischütz came to be regarded as the first German "nationalist" opera, Euryanthe developed the Leitmotif technique to an unprecedented degree, while Oberon may have influenced Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream and, at the same time, revealed Weber's lifelong interest in the music of non-Western cultures. This interest was first manifested in Weber's incidental music for Schiller's translation of Gozzi's Turandot, for which he used a Chinese melody, making him the first Western composer to use an Asian tune that was not of the pseudo-Turkish kind popularized by Mozart and others.

A brilliant pianist himself, Weber composed four sonatas, two concertos and the Konzertstück in F minor (concert piece), which influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. The Konzertstück provided a new model for the one-movement concerto in several contrasting sections (such as Liszt's, who often played the work), and was acknowledged by Stravinsky as the model for his Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. Weber's shorter piano pieces, such as the Invitation to the Dance, were later orchestrated by Berlioz, while his Polacca Brillante was later set for piano and orchestra by Liszt.

Weber's compositions for clarinet, bassoon, and horn occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His compositions for the clarinet, which include two concertos, a concertino, a quintet, a duo concertante, and variations on a theme from his opera Silvana, are regularly performed today. His Concertino for Horn and Orchestra requires the performer to simultaneously produce two notes by humming while playing—a technique known as "multiphonics". His bassoon concerto and the Andante e Rondo ungarese (a reworking of a piece originally for viola and orchestra) are also popular with bassoonists.

Weber's contribution to vocal and choral music is also significant. His body of Catholic religious music was highly popular in 19th-century Germany, and he composed one of the earliest song cycles, Die Temperamente beim Verluste der Geliebten ([Four] Temperaments on the Loss of a Lover). Weber was also notable as one of the first conductors to conduct without a piano or violin.

Weber's orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers – Berlioz referred to him several times in his Treatise on Instrumentation while Debussy remarked that the sound of the Weber orchestra was obtained through the scrutiny of the soul of each instrument.

His operas influenced the work of later opera composers, especially in Germany, such as Marschner, Meyerbeer and Wagner, as well as several nationalist 19th-century composers such as Glinka. Homage has been paid to Weber by 20th-century composers such as Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler (who completed Weber's unfinished comic opera Die drei Pintos and made revisions of Euryanthe and Oberon) and Hindemith (composer of the popular Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber).

Weber also wrote music journalism and was interested in folksong, and learned lithography to engrave his own works.

Carl Maria von Weber



Weber was born in Eutin, Bishopric of Lübeck, the eldest of the three children of Franz Anton von Weber and his second wife, Genovefa Weber, a Viennese singer. The "von" was an affectation; Franz Anton von Weber was not actually an aristocrat. Both his parents were Catholic and originally came from the far south of Germany. Franz Anton began his career as a military officer in the service of the Duchy of Holstein, and after being fired, went on to hold a number of musical directorships. In 1787 Franz Anton went on to Hamburg where he founded a theatrical company.

Franz Anton's half-brother, Fridolin, married Cäcilia Stamm and had four musical daughters, Josepha, Aloysia, Constanze and Sophie, all of whom became notable singers. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart attempted to woo Aloysia, composing several pieces for her. But after she rejected his advances, Mozart went on to marry Constanze.

A gifted violinist, Franz Anton had ambitions of turning Carl into a child prodigy like Franz's nephew-by-marriage, Mozart. Carl was born with a congenital hip disease and did not begin to walk until he was four. But by then, he was already a capable singer and pianist.


Weber's father gave him a comprehensive education, which was however interrupted by the family's constant moves. In 1796, Weber continued his musical education in Hildburghausen, where he was instructed by the oboist Johann Peter Heuschkel.

On 13 March 1798, Weber's mother died of tuberculosis. That same year, Weber went to Salzburg to study with Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn, who agreed to teach Carl free of charge. Later that year, Weber traveled to Munich to study with the singer Johann Evangelist Wallishauser and organist Johann Nepomuk Kalcher.

1798 also saw the twelve-year-old Weber's first published work, six fughettas for piano, published in Leipzig. Other compositions of that period, among them a mass, and his first opera, Die Macht der Liebe und des Weins (The Power of Love and Wine), are lost; but a set of Variations for the Pianoforte was later lithographed by Weber himself, under the guidance of Alois Senefelder, the inventor of the process.

In 1800, the family moved to Freiberg in Saxony, where Weber, then 14 years old, wrote an opera called Das stumme Waldmädchen (The Silent Forest Maiden), which was produced at the Freiberg theatre. It was later performed in Vienna, Prague, and Saint Petersburg. The young Weber also began to publish articles as a music critic, for example in the Leipziger Neue Zeitung in 1801.

In 1801, the family returned to Salzburg, where Weber resumed his studies with Michael Haydn. He later continued studying in Vienna with Georg Joseph Vogler, known as Abbé Vogler, founder of three important music schools (in Mannheim, Stockholm, and Darmstadt); another famous pupil of Vogler was Giacomo Meyerbeer, who became a close friend of Weber.

Early career 1803–1810

In 1803, Weber's opera, Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn (Peter Schmoll and His Neighbours) was produced in Augsburg, and gave Weber his first success as a popular composer.

Vogler, impressed by his pupil's talent, recommended him to the post of Director at the Breslau Opera in 1804. Weber sought to reform the Opera by pensioning off older singers, expanding the orchestra, and tackling a more challenging repertoire. His attempts at reform were met with strong resistance from the musicians and the Breslau public.

He left his post in Breslau in a fit of frustration and from 1807 to 1810, Weber served as private secretary to Duke Ludwig, brother of King Frederick I of Württemberg. Weber's time in Württemberg was plagued with troubles. He fell deeply into debt and had an ill-fated affair with Margarethe Lang, a singer at the opera. Furthermore, Weber's father Franz Anton misappropriated a vast quantity of Duke Ludwig's money. Franz Anton and Carl were charged with embezzlement and arrested on 9 February 1810. Carl was in the middle of a rehearsal for his opera Silvana when he was arrested and thrown in prison by order of the king. Though no one doubted Carl's innocence, King Frederick I had grown tired of the composer's pranks. After a summary trial, Carl and his father were banished from Württemberg. Nevertheless, Carl remained prolific as a composer during this period, writing a quantity of religious music, mainly for the Catholic mass. This however earned him the hostility of reformers working for the re-establishment of traditional chant in liturgy.

Later career 1810–1826

In 1810, Weber visited several cities throughout Germany; 1811 was a pivotal year in his career when he met and worked with the Munich court clarinetist Heinrich Baermann and composed the Concertino in E Major, Op. 26, J. 109, and the two concerti J. 114 and J. 118 for him; from December 1811 through March 1812, Weber went on tour with Baermann playing the clarinet works, and it was some of the final concerts on this tour that changed public, critical and royal opinions of Weber's work, and helped him to mount a successful performance of Silvana in Berlin later that year;[4][5] from 1813 to 1816 he was director of the Opera in Prague; from 1816 to 1817 he worked in Berlin, and from 1817 onwards he was director of the prestigious Opera in Dresden, working hard to establish a German opera, in reaction to the Italian opera which had dominated the European music scene since the 18th century. On 4 November 1817, he married Caroline Brandt, a singer who created the title role of Silvana.[6] In 1819, he wrote perhaps his most famous piano piece, Invitation to the Dance.

The successful premiere of Der Freischütz on 18 June 1821 in Berlin led to performances all over Europe. On the very morning of the premiere, Weber finished his Konzertstück in F minor for Piano and Orchestra, and he premiered it a week later.

The grave of Carl Maria von Weber, Old Catholic Cemetery, Dresden
The grave of Carl Maria von Weber, Old Catholic Cemetery, Dresden

In 1823, Weber composed the opera Euryanthe to a mediocre libretto, but containing much rich music, the overture of which in particular anticipates Richard Wagner. In 1824, Weber received an invitation from The Royal Opera, London, to compose and produce Oberon, based on Christoph Martin Wieland's poem of the same name. Weber accepted the invitation, and in 1826 he travelled to England, to finish the work and conduct the premiere on 12 April.

Weber was already suffering from tuberculosis when he visited London. He conducted the premiere and twelve sold-out performances of Oberon in London during April and in May, and despite his rapidly worsening health, he continued to fulfill commitments for private concerts and benefits. He died during the night of 4/5 June 1826 at the home of his good friend Sir George Smart where he was staying while in London.[6][7] Weber was 39 years old. He was initially buried in London, but 18 years later his remains were transferred to the family burial plot in the Old Catholic Cemetery (Alten Katholischen Friedhof) in west Dresden. The simple gravestone was designed by Gottfried Semper and lies against the northern boundary wall. The eulogy at the reburial, which took place only a few days after the death of Weber's son,[8] was performed by Richard Wagner.

His unfinished opera Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos) was originally given by Weber's widow to Giacomo Meyerbeer for completion; it was eventually completed by Gustav Mahler, who conducted the first performance in this form in Leipzig on 20 January 1888.


Weber's piano music all but disappeared from the repertoire. One possible reason for this is that Weber had very large hands and delighted in writing music that suited them.[9] There are several recordings of the major works for the solo piano, including complete recordings of the piano sonatas and the shorter piano pieces, and there are recordings of the individual sonatas by Claudio Arrau (1st sonata), Alfred Cortot and Emil Gilels (2nd sonata), Sviatoslav Richter (3rd sonata) and Leon Fleisher (4th sonata). The Invitation to the Dance, although better known in Berlioz's orchestration (as part of the ballet music for a Paris production of Der Freischütz), has long been played and recorded by pianists (e.g., Benno Moiseiwitsch [in Carl Tausig's arrangement]). Invitation to the Dance also served as the thematic basis for Benny Goodman's swing theme song for the radio program Let's Dance.


Church music

  • Missa sancta No. 1 in E-flat, J. 224 (1818)
  • Missa sancta No. 2 in G, Op. 76, J. 251 (1818–19)


Vocal works with orchestra

  • Cantata Der erste Ton for chorus and orchestra, Op. 14, J. 58 (1808 / revised 1810)
  • Recitative and rondo Il momento s'avvicina for soprano and orchestra, Op. 16, J. 93 (1810)
  • Hymn In seiner Ordnung schafft der Herr for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 36, J. 154 (1812)
  • Cantata Kampf und Sieg for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 44, J. 190 (1815)
  • Scene and Aria of Atalia Misera me! for soprano and orchestra, Op. 50, J. 121 (1811)
  • Jubel-Cantata for the 50th royal jubilee of King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony for soloist, chorus and orchestra, Op. 58, J. 244 (1818)


Solo instruments

  • Piano
    • Piano Sonata No. 1
    • Piano Sonata No. 2
    • Piano Sonata No. 3
    • Piano Sonata No. 4
    • Waltz in A for solo piano, J. 146
    • Rondo brilliante, Op. 62



  1. ^ Tusa n.d.
  2. ^ von Weber, Max Maria (1864). Carl Maria von Weber – Ein Lebensbild (in German). Leipzig: Ernst Keil. pp. 19–20.)
  3. ^ Max Maria von Weber, Carl Maria von Weber: The Life of an Artist, translated by John Palgrave Simpson, two volumes (London: Chapman and Hall, 1865), 1:52, 62, 94, 137, 143, 152, 177, 211, 244, 271, 278; John Warrack, Carl Maria von Weber, second edition (Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 67, 94, 107, 141.
  4. ^ Weston, Pamela (1971). Clarinet Virtuosi of the past. Great Britain: Emerson Edition. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-9506209-8-5.
  5. ^ Warrack, John (1976). Carl Maria von Weber (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-0-521-29121-7.
  6. ^ a b Masters Of Music – Carl Maria Von Weber
  7. ^ Warrack, John (1976). Carl Maria von Weber (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 356–362. ISBN 978-0-521-29121-7.
  8. ^ Simon Callow, Wagner: The Triumph of the Will, p. 60
  9. ^ Andrew Fraser, Limelight magazine, June 2009, p. 60


  • Friese-Greene, Anthony (1993) Weber, The Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers, new ed., London: Omnibus, ISBN 0-7119-2081-8
  • Henderson, Donald G., and Alice H. Henderson (1990) Carl Maria von Weber: A Guide to Research, Garland Composer Resource Manuals 24, New York; London: Garland, ISBN 0-8240-4118-6.
  • Meyer, Stephen C. (2003) Carl Maria Von Weber and the Search for a German Opera, Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, ISBN 0-253-34185-X.
  • Reynolds, David (ed.) (1976) Weber in London, 1826, London: Wolff, ISBN 0-85496-403-7.
  • Tusa, Michael C. (n.d.) "Weber (9): Carl Maria (Friedrich Ernst) von Weber." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.
  • Warrack, John. (1976) Carl Maria Von Weber, Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-21354-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-521-29121-6 (pbk).
  • Warrack, John H., Hugh Macdonald, and Karl-Heinz Köhler (1985) The New Grove Early Romantic Masters 2: Weber, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, The Composer Biography Series, London: Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-39014-8.
  • von Weber, Max Maria (1865). Carl Maria von Weber: The Life of an Artist, translated by John Palgrave Simpson. Two volumes. London: Chapman and Hall.

Further reading

External links

Abu Hassan

Abu Hassan is a comic opera in one act by Carl Maria von Weber to a German libretto by Franz Carl Hiemer, based on a story in One Thousand and One Nights. It was composed between 11 August 1810 and 12 January 1811 and has set numbers with recitative and spoken dialogue. The work is a Singspiel in the then popular Turkish style.

Clarinet Concerto No. 1 (Weber)

Carl Maria von Weber wrote his Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73 (J. 114) for the clarinettist Heinrich Bärmann in 1811. The piece is highly regarded in the instrument's repertoire. It is written for clarinet in B♭. The work consists of three movements in the form of fast, slow, fast.

Clarinet Concerto No. 2 (Weber)

Carl Maria von Weber wrote his Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E♭ major, Op. 74, J. 118 in 1811, and premiered on December 25, 1813. It is composed of three movements:


Romanze: Andante con moto

Alla PolaccaA typical performance lasts 23 minutes. The 1st movement typically lasts for approximately 8:30 minutes, the 2nd movement for approximately 7 minutes and the 3rd movement for between 6:30 and 7 minutes depending on the tempo.

Like all of Weber's clarinet works except for the Grand Duo Concertant, it is dedicated to Heinrich Baermann, who was soloist at the premiere

Clarinet Quintet (Weber)

The Clarinet Quintet in B♭ Major, Op. 34, is a clarinet quintet that was composed by Carl Maria von Weber from 1811 to 1815. Like with most of Weber's other clarinet compositions, the quintet was written for the German clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann.

Concertino for Clarinet (Weber)

Carl Maria von Weber wrote his Concertino for Clarinet in E-flat major, Op. 26, J. 109 for clarinetist Heinrich Bärmann in 1811. Weber wrote the work in three days between March 29 and April 3. Bärmann learned the work over the next three days and the command performance, for which King Maximilian I of Bavaria purchased 50 tickets, took place on the evening of April 5.

Concertino for Horn and Orchestra (Weber)

The Concertino for Horn and Orchestra in E minor, J188 (Op. 45), was composed in 1806 for the Karlsruhe player Dautrevaux, and revised for the Munich virtuoso Rauch in 1815 (completed on 31 August) by Carl Maria von Weber (Warrack 1976, p. 167). It is an extremely taxing work, whether played on the natural horn for which it was written, or on the modern valve horn. The soloist is accompanied by a small orchestra. It requires, among other feats, that the player produce what is in effect a four-note chord using the interplay between humming and the sound from the instrument, a technique known as multiphonics.

The work is widely recorded and performed, appearing in the repertoire of well-known horn players including Hermann Baumann, Barry Tuckwell and David Pyatt.

It was originally written for the natural horn, and the authentic performance movement still sees it played on this instrument; for example, by Anthony Halstead with the Hanover Band.

Der Freischütz

Der Freischütz, Op. 77, J. 277, (usually translated as The Marksman or The Freeshooter) is a German opera with spoken dialogue in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin. It is considered the first important German Romantic opera, especially in its national identity and stark emotionality.The plot is based on the German folk legend of the Freischütz and many of its tunes were thought to be inspired by German folk music, but this is a common misconception. Its unearthly portrayal of the supernatural in the famous Wolf's Glen scene has been described as "the most expressive rendering of the gruesome that is to be found in a musical score".

Die drei Pintos

Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos) is a comic opera of which Carl Maria von Weber began composing the music, working on a libretto by Theodor Hell. The work was completed about 65 years after Weber's death by Gustav Mahler.


Euryanthe is a German "grand, heroic, romantic" opera by Carl Maria von Weber, first performed at the Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna on 25 October 1823. Though acknowledged as one of Weber's most important operas, the work is rarely staged because of the weak libretto by Helmina von Chézy (who, incidentally, was also the author of the failed play Rosamunde, for which Franz Schubert wrote music). Euryanthe is based on the 13th-century French romance L'Histoire du très-noble et chevalereux prince Gérard, comte de Nevers et la très-virtueuse et très chaste princesse Euriant de Savoye, sa mye.

Only the overture, an outstanding example of the early German Romantic style (heralding Richard Wagner), is regularly played today. Like Schubert's lesser-known Alfonso und Estrella, of the same time and place (Vienna, 1822), Euryanthe parts with the German Singspiel tradition, adopting a musical approach without the interruption of spoken dialogue characteristic of earlier German language operas such as Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Beethoven's Fidelio, and Weber's own Der Freischütz.

Grand Duo Concertant (Weber)

The Grand Duo Concertant, Opus 48, J204, is a three-movement work for clarinet and piano composed by Carl Maria von Weber from 1815 to 1816. It is a virtuosic piece for both instruments. Weber most likely composed the work for himself (on piano) and his friend Heinrich Baermann, a leading clarinettist of the era, although it has also been suggested that the intended clarinettist was Johann Simon Hermstedt.The three movements are as follows:

Allegro con fuoco

Andante con moto

Rondo: allegroThe second and third movements were completed before the first and were probably performed in 1815 for King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria at the Nymphenburg Palace. During its composition, Weber designated the work as a sonata, but abandoned that title upon its completion. This decision reflected the work's character as more of a showcase for two virtuosos than a conventionally structured and integrated work. The first movement is in sonata form, the second movement is an Andante in C minor, and the finale is a lilting rondo in E-flat major. The British music critic John Warrack suggests the work could be referred to as a "double concerto without orchestra", reflecting the highly virtuosic roles for both performers.

Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber

The "Carl Maria von Weber" College of Music (Hochschule für Musik "Carl Maria von Weber" in German, and also/formerly known as Dresden Conservatory or Dresden Royal Conservatory) is a college of music in Dresden, Germany.

Invitation to the Dance (Weber)

Invitation to the Dance (Aufforderung zum Tanz), Op. 65, J. 260, is a piano piece in rondo form written by Carl Maria von Weber in 1819. It is also well known in the 1841 orchestration by Hector Berlioz. It is sometimes called Invitation to the Waltz, but this is a mistranslation of the original.

Konzertstück in F minor (Weber)

The Konzertstück in F minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 79, J. 282, was written by Carl Maria von Weber. He started work on it in 1815, and completed it on the morning of the premiere of his opera Der Freischütz, 18 June 1821. He premiered it a week later, on 25 June, at his farewell Berlin concert.

List of compositions by Carl Maria von Weber

The following is a complete list of compositions by Carl Maria von Weber in order of both opus number and catalogue number. A complete chronological catalogue of Weber's works was compiled by Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns and published in 1871. Catalogue numbers are indicated by a preceding "J.".

List of operas by Carl Maria von Weber

This is a complete list of the operas of the German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826).

Oberon (Weber)

Oberon, or The Elf King's Oath is a 3-act romantic opera in English with spoken dialogue and music by Carl Maria von Weber. The libretto by James Robinson Planché was based on a German poem, Oberon, by Christoph Martin Wieland, which itself was based on the epic romance Huon de Bordeaux, a French medieval tale.Against his doctor's advice, Weber undertook the project commissioned by the actor-impresario Charles Kemble for financial reasons. Having been offered the choice of Faust or Oberon as subject matter, he travelled to London to complete the music, learning English to be better able to follow the libretto, before the premiere of the opera. However, the pressure of rehearsals, social engagements and composing extra numbers destroyed his health, and Weber died in London on 5 June 1826.

Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn

Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn (Peter Schmoll and his Neighbours) is the third opera by Carl Maria von Weber and the first for which the music has survived, though the libretto has not. It was written in 1802 when the composer was only 15 and premiered in Augsburg the following year. The opera takes the form of a Singspiel, mixing spoken dialogue and musical numbers. The libretto is based on a novel by C.G. Cramer.

Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber is an orchestral work written by German composer Paul Hindemith in America in 1943.

Trio for Piano, Flute and Cello (Weber)

Trio for Piano, Flute and Cello in G minor, Op. 63, J. 259 was composed by Carl Maria von Weber in 1818-1819 and published the next year (1820). It is one of his most substantial chamber pieces. A typical performance lasts 21-25 min.

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