Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, and was one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school.
Vogler recommended his 17-year-old pupil Carl Maria to the post of Director at the Breslau Opera in 1804, who was offered and accepted the mission. Weber sought to reform the Opera by pensioning off older singers, expanding the orchestra, and tackling a more challenging repertoire. His ambitious and dedicated work as director of the orchestra was acknowledged though his tempi were frequently critized as too fast. As the daily routine did not leave sufficient time for own creative work, Weber abandoned the prolongation of his two-year appointment.
After an interlude at the court of Duke Eugen (I.) of Württemberg, who resided in Silesia, Weber served from 1807 to 1810 in Stuttgart 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 became entangled in financial manipulations of his employer, e.g. the sale of confirmations of ducal service which exempted from military service. Carl Maria was arrested and charged with embezzlement and bribery. As he could disprove the allegations one restricted the case to civil law because one did not want to compromise the conjectured manipulator, the brother of the king. Weber accepted to pay his debts (last payment 1816) and was banished from Württemberg together with his father.
As sobering side effect Weber started to keep a diary to list his expences, sent and received letters and occasional comments of special events.
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.
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; 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. 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.
In 1823, Weber composed his first (and only) full-length, through-written opera Euryanthe to a libretto by Helmina von Chézy, several passages of which (notably the music for the villainous couple Lysiart and Eglantine) anticipate the early, romantic operas of 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 in his sleep during the night on 5 June 1826 at the home of his good friend and host Sir George Smart; he was 39 years old. He was buried in London.
18 years later in December 1844 his remains were transferred to the family burial plot in the Old Catholic Cemetery (Alter Katholischer Friedhof) in Dresden at the side of his youngest son Alexander, who at the age of 19 had died of measles seven weeks before. The simple gravestone, designed by Gottfried Semper, lies against the northern boundary wall. The eulogy at the reburial was delivered by Richard Wagner.
Weber’s unfinished opera Die drei Pintos (The Three Pintos) was originally given by his widow to Giacomo Meyerbeer for completion; it was eventually completed by Gustav Mahler, who conducted the first performance in Leipzig on 20 January 1888.
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