George Grove.

A dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) online

. (page 100 of 194)
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3n in the vocal numbers, a device for connect-
f the music and the action together, which is
11 known to have been carried to such an extent
Wagner that he is generally considered the in-
ator of it. Weber, however, has in Silvana
•ned it to account most effectively. A striking
simple is the scene where Rudolf meets Silvana
bhe forest. He addresses her in gentle tones, to
lich she replies only by signs, accompanied by
;hestral strains of the most expressive nature,
th a great deal of cello- solo. The whole scene
full of genius, and continually suggests a com-
rison with Wagner, especially where Rudolf
gs, *Wenn du mich liebtest, o welch' ein
iick! O lass mich deinelAugen fragen!' while
vana, to a melting strain from the cello, 'looks
him sweetly and tenderly,' a passage which
alls the first meeting of Siegmunde and Sieg-
de in the Walkiire. Other passages, in which
J music follows the action step by step, are to
found in Weber's great operas, especially in.
iryanthe. Strange to say, they seem to have
racted little attention, even in the latter case,
i have certainly never had their merit acknow-
ged in print. — The composer prepared two
^ editions of Silvana,"^ the former of which
5l2) is incomplete, and both now very rare,
new one is much wanted, and the full score
this interesting work ought to be published
"ore long.

5. 'Abu Hassan,' the second in the middle
lup of Weber's operas, was adapted by Hiemer
m an Arabian fairy-tale, with occasional remin-
ences of Weisse's Dorfbarbier.^ The story of
8 one-act Singspiel is closely connected with



Jchlesinger, Berlin.

ibu Hassan, a droll Javoniite of the Caliph of Bagdad, and his
Fatima. with a greater turn for making verses than for domestic
lagement. have run deeply into debt, and are hard pressed by
r creditors. They hit upon the expedient of each giving out the
T as dead; so Fatima goes to the Sultana, and Hassan to the
an. to asic for their customary contribution towards the funeal
fnses. The plan succeeds, and each returns with a considerable
. nhich is applied to iheir most urgent necessities. The Sultan
Sultana, however, fall out as to which of the two it is that has
. and to settle the qjestion. proceed with a number of their
t to Abu Has.sans house. Here, after a very droll scene with
supposed defunct cnuple, the true state of affaire comes to light.
Aba Hassan and Fatima are abundantly provided for, while
IT the money-changer, who has pressed his demands in the hope
:torting concessions from Fatima, receives due puoisbment.



WEBER.



41S



certain experiences of both Weber and Hiemer in
Stuttgart. It must have been easy to Weber to
find appropriate melodies for a creditor dunning
a light-minded impecunious debtor ; and curi-
ously enough, the first number of the opera he
set was the Creditors' Chorus, * Geld, Geld, Geld,
ich will nicht langer warten ' (August 11, 18 10).
The little piece consisted originally of the Over-
ture and eight vocal mmabers, the duet 'Thranen
sollst du nicht vergiessen ' being added in 181 2,
and the air 'Hier liegt, welch martervoUes Loos'
in 1823.

The chief reason why this opera is so little
known in Germany is that it is so short, barely
occupying half an evening; it has, however,
been given several times lately. The fun in
German comic opera has always been somewhat
boisterous ; for more refined comedy we must
generally go to the French, but Abu Hassan
is almost the sole German work which pro-
duces a hearty laugh, and at the same time
charms by its grace and refinement, and by the
distinction of its musical expression. Perhaps
the best bit is the scene between Abu Hassan
and his creditors, but the duet between Omar
and Fatima (No. 6), the final terzetto (No. 7),
and Fatima's additional air (No. 8), are all of
great merit. The last air, it should be borne in
mind, was composed twelve years after the rest,
and bears the stamp of the matured composer.
Various little instances of want of finish appear
in the music, but defects of this kind may well
be overlooked for the sake of the invention,
so spontaneous and spirituel, and the downright
hearty fun of the whole, mingled as it is with
rare and touching tenderness.'

6. Between the completion of Abu Hassan and
the commencement of Der Freischiitz intervene
no less than six years — a long period iu so short
a life — during which Weber composed no opera.
Not that the dramatic impulse had abandoned
him. ' I am anxiously looking out for another
good libretto,' he writes after the production of
Abu Hassan at Munich 'for I cannot get on
at all without an opera in hand.' We know he
had several projects, and that he had a ' Tann-
hauser' in his mind in 1814; but his restless
life, and the unsatisfactory nature of his posi-
tion at Prague, prevented his bringing anything
to maturity. Nevertheless his dramatic powers
did not lie absolutely fallow. Six grand Italian
arias with orchestra, some with chorus also,
composed during this period, though intended
for the concert-room, may be cla.ssed with his
dramatic works, because they presuppo.se a scene
or situation in which some distinct person gives
expres.sion to his or her feedings. The same
is true of three Italian duets, which mark
an important stage in his development, as it
was through them that he gained dexterity in
handling the larger forms of vocal music. As we
have seen, he was somewhat clumsy at this in
Silvana. Several of the six concert -arias
are of high merit, particularly the one com-

> A complete PF. score is published by Simrock of Boon (now
Berlin).



414



WEBER.



WEBER.



posed for Prince Frederic of Gotha, ' Signer, se
padre sei,' the scetia ed aria for Atalia, ' Mi-
sera me,' and the scena ed aria for Mehul's
'HAhne,' 'Ah, se Edmondo fosse I'uccisor.'
The cause of the neglect of Weber's concert-
arias at the present day can only be that the
grand style of concert-singing is almost uni-
versally superseded by ballads, which are really
unsuited to the concert-room. The three duets
with PF, accompaniment are also worthy of
notice, as showing Weber's perfect familiarity
with the Italian style, while retaining intact his
German individuality, a combination which gives
them a special interest. One — 'Si il mio ben,
cor mio tu sei ' — was originally composed for 2
altos, with clarinet obligato, and an accompani-
ment of string quartet and 2 horns. It was
performed at Weber's concert in Darmstadt in
181 1, when he writes to Gottfried Weber, 'a
duet so confoundedly Italian in style that it
might be Farinelli's ; however it pleased them
infernally.' This is, however, unjust to him-
self, for though here and there the Italian
cast of melody is obvious, the main body is tho-
roughly Weberish. The allegro with its con-
trasting subjects, one sustained and flowing, and
the other light, graceful, and piquant, recalls
the duet between Agatha and Aennchen in
Freischiitz.

Besides his Italian compositions, among which
we may include 3 canzonets for single voice and
PF., Weber exercised his dramatic vein twice
between 181 1 and 181 7, in the composition of
Lieder, and in his cantata ' Kampf und Sieg '
(T815). These important works are of course
only indirectly dramatic. They will be noticed
later on.

7. With Der Freischiitz Weber laid the found-
ation of Gei-nian romantic opera. To explain
this statement we must first define precisely
what we mean by the term 'romantic' Ori-
ginally borrowed from the Spanish and French
mediaeval chronicles of chivalry, the word pri-
marily denoted anything marvellous, surpris-
ing, knight- eiTant-like, or fantastic. Operas
were often founded on stories of this kind
in the i8th century, the first being a libretto
called 'Lisouart und Dariolette,' adapted by
Schiebler from Favart, and set by J. A. Hiller
(Hamburg 1766). The French taste for fairy
tales and eastern stories penetrated to Germany,
and such subjects were used in opera. Thus the
story of Zemire and Azor was set in 1775, and
that of Oberon's Magic Horn in 1790. The
Zauberflote too, as is well known, was founded
on an eastern fairy tale, and that chef-d'cEuvre
made fairy-operas a recognised fashion. All
these, from the nature of their subjects, might
be called romantic operas, and indeed were so at
the time. Weber himself speaks of Mozart,
Cherubini, and even Beethoven as romantic com-
posers, but this was not in the sense in which
the word has been used since his time in Ger-
many. The fair}' and magic operas, of which
Vienna was the headquartei-s, were popular be-
-cause their sensational plots and elaborate I



scenery delighted a people as simple as a S(t
of grown-up children. They were, in fact, prett
fantastic trifles, and Mozart, though he intrc
duced serious tones in them, did not alt<
their essential character. The romantic open
in the present restricted sense of the word, diffe;
from these earlier fairy operas in that wha
ever is introduced of the marvellous, wheth<
narrative, legend, or fairy-tale, is treated »
riously, and not as a mere matter of amusemen
The iiltimate cause of this change of ideas wj
the entire transformation of the intellectual life •
Germany during the end of the 1 8th and begii
ning of the 19th centuries. After its long stai
of dependence on foreign countries the mind <
Germany awoke to consciousness, began to kno
something of its own history, its legends an
myths, its natural language and customs, an
to prize them as precious heirlooms. It agai
grasped the peculiar — almost pantheistic — rel;
tions with nature, which distinguished tl
Teutonic from the classic and Latin people
This change of ideas was greatly accelerated I
the gradual transference of the predominatiu
influence in music from the lively Ught-hearte
South Germans, to the more serious and though
ful inhabitants of North Germany. Last!
individual composers, Weber among them, cam
under the influence of the poets of the romant
school. As these latter, breaking away fro;
the classicalism of Goethe and Schiller, sougl
their ideals of beauty in national art, histor;
and myth, primarily German, and afterwart
Indian, Italian, Spanish, French, or English, ;
the composers of the romantic school also foun
an attraction in the same class of subjects parti
because of their very unfamiliarity. Thus, coi
sciously or unconsciously, they applied to musi
the dictum of Novalis with regard to romanti
poetiy — that it was the art of surprising in
pleasing manner.

Subjects for romantic opera require a certai
expansiveness of the imagination ; a capacity (
soaring beyond the commonplace events of dail
Ufe. Presupposing also, as they do, a health;
and not over-refined taste, they accommodat
themselves with ease to the manners and speec
of the people. This is how it happens thf
other elements of the German popular pla}
— the comic and amusing — which have no ii
herent connection with the serious conceptio
of a romantic subject, find a place in romant:
opera. Again, in contradistinction to tb
antique-classical drama, which revealed to th
spectators an ideal world without restrictioi
of time or space, romantic subjects laid tt
utmost stress on peculiarities of race or epocl
social relations or distinctions. Thus it fo
lowed that there were in romantic opera fov
principal elements — the imaginative, the lu
tional, the comic, and the realistic. The fusin
of these elements by means of the imaginatio
into one whole is what constitutes Germa
romanticism. The music destined to correspon
with this ideal should be bright, highly-colourei
and varied, full of sharp contrasts, subjecti^



WEBER.



WEBER.



415



Br than objective, the artistic forms con-
tly evolving themselves in obedience to the
jrary direction of the imagination. Hence
J two alterations of position, both of great
(rtance in opera, the one between the instru-
bal and vocal parts of the music ; the other,
principal one, between the poetry and the
,c. From this time forward the instrumental
c disputes precedence with the singing,
claims equality with it as a means of drama-
haracterisation. This led to a predominance
eneral mood over specific emotion, a sub-
lation of the dramatic individual to the
ies, and a preponderance of colour over draw-
Formerly, too, the poem merely sketched
the main features of the plot, which the
c filled in in accordance with its own laws ;
the poet claimed a voice in the construc-
of the musical forms. These tendencies,
igically carried out, involve the absolute
ruction of the present forms of opera, but
the Romanticists did not intend. All they
3mplated was such an admixture of these
mposing elements as should impart new life
additional charm to the existing form. There
a certain sense of unrest, a chiaro-scuro, a
)oding kind of feeling about their music
ih made it admirably adapted for represent-
Jie supernatural.

I Siivana, "Weber had already trenched upon
domain of romantic opera, in the sense in
!h we have just expounded it, but had not
Found adequate musical expression for Ger-
romanticism. Next came Spohr's Faust
813, and Zemire und Azor in 1 8 J 8 . In both
e the subjects are conceived with earnest-
, and a dreamy twilight tone runs through
whole, 80 that they undoubtedly possess
i of the distinguishing marks of the romantic
a ; but Spohr's music is much too rounded
in form, and too polished, and he had
)6itive aversion to anything popular. Nor
he suflBcient versatility and flexibility,
ness, or vis comica. Strictly speaking, there-
, he is only half a romanticist. Freischiitz
a revel?.tion ; from the date of its production
e was no question as to what a romantic
'a really was.

.ind did not draw on his own invention for the
3tto. The history of the sub j ect is still incom-
e, but we know that the story can be traced
c as far as the 17th century. It was pub-
Jd in the beginning of the i8th, in a book
id ' Unterredungen vom Reiche der Geister,'
'hich a second edition appeared in Leipzig in
I. The statement there made, that the occur-
;e took place in a town of Bohemia in 1 710,
ies no weight. From this book Johann August
il took the story, and published it as a narra-
called ' Der Freischiitz, a legend of the peo-
(1810), handling it so cleverly that it again
ime popular. In 18 19 Gerle took it up and
te 'Den braunen Jager.' ^ In 182 1 it was

ubllshed in vol. i. oj the ' Gespensterbuch,' edited by Apel and
' Leipzig. GOschen, 1810).

J be fouiid in No. 6« of the ' Freimuthigen fttr Deutscbl&nd,'
1 by MOchler and Symanski (Berlin, 1819).



turned into a tragedy by Count von Reisch, and
performed Aug. 17, 1821, at Wiirzburg, two
months after the first performance of the opera in
Berlin. Kind mainly followed Apel : his poein,
with explanatory notes, ran through two editions
in 1822 and a third in 1823 (Goschen). Twenty
years later he prepared the last edition for his
' Freischiitz-book,' and added to it a mass of
cognate matter by no means uninteresting.

Apel's story has been more read again lately,
and finding how much Kind borrowed from it,
people have been apt to disparage both him and
his libretto. Ambros's ^ remarks on this point,
for instance, are most unjust. Neither origin-
ality of ideas nor literary skill are so important
to a librettist as the faculty of arranging his
materials in a reaUy dramatic form. This Kind
had in a high degree, and it ought to be sufficient.
His own alterations and additions, too, are most
successful, having the threefold advantage of
conducing to the musical development, suiting
Weber's special gifs, and hitting the ideal of
German national opera. The parts of Cas-
par, Aennchen, and the Hermit, are entirely
his own, while that of Agathe is greatly
strengthened, and Samiel is brought forward to
meet the requirements of the music. The
motives and action of the plot also diverge
considerably from Apel's romance. Caspar
being jealous of Max, tries to engage him
in a compact with Satan, but the Evil One
is frustrated by the pure-minded and devout
Agathe, and in her stead Caspar becomes
the victim. Thus Kind contrived a happy
termination instead of Apel's tragic one. The
plot, as it now stands, — its main interest
centred in a couple of true-hearted lovers,
living in an honest forester's cottage, on a
background of German forest, with all its
delights and all its weird associations, lit up
now by sunbeams glinting on a frolicsome
peasantry, now by lurid flashes revealing the
forms of the powers of darkness — appeals with
irresistible attraction to every German heart.
The most important point in the opera, how-
ever, and the secret of its success, is the strongly-
marked religious element which at once raised
it to an altogether higher level than any prior
opera, and gave it a kind of sacred character.
During the War of Freedom a spirit of religious
enthusiasm had taken hold of the people of
Germany, and become so far a ruling passion
that any one who succeeded in giving expres-
sion to it in music was sure of striking home
to the national heart. Looked at from this
point of view, the part of the hermit. Kind's
own invention, acquires considerable significance.
The opening of the opera was originally intended
to be quite difi'erent from what it is now. The
curtain drew up on a forest scene with a hermit's
cell, having close by a turf altar with a cross or
image at the back, covered with white roses.
The hermit praying before the altar sees in a
vision the Prince of Darkness lying in wait to

3 See his ' Bunte Blatter," 1. (Leipzig. Leuckart, 1S72); also the New
I Series, 33 (Ibid. IbTl), and Wustmann in the 'Grenzboten, i. 1S74,
I D. 414.



41G



WEBER,



entrap Agathe, ' the spotless lamb,' and her
Max. At this point Agathe enters, bearing
bread, milk, and fruit for the hermit. After
warning her that danger is near, he gives her his
blessing and two or three of the roses, which
have the power of working miracles. A duet
between the two concludes the scene. Weber
did not compose either the duet or the hermit's
monologue ; but, by his fiancie's advice, began
the opera with the village fete. By this means
he certainly secured a more effective introduction,
though the appearance of the hermit in the
last act now seems somewhat abrupt and out
of place.

The religious sentiment of Weber's day was
entirely of a romantic kind, made up partly of a
sort of medieval fanatical Catholicism, partly of
an almost pantheistical nature-worship. What
a gift he had for giving expression to this senti-
ment Weber perhaps scarcely knew before he
wrote the Freischiitz. It was an advantage to
him to be a member, and a conscienlious one,
of the Roman Catholic Church, and to have also
a naturally serious and devout disposition.
Hence the character of Agathe has a virgin-
sweetness, an unearthly purity, such as was
never put on tlie stage before. As an inter-
preter of nature Weber's position in the dramatic
world is like that of Beethoven in the Symphony ;
nay, the infinite variety of nature-pictures
contained in Der Freischiitz, Preciosa, Eury-
anthe, and Oberon, each quite new of its
kind, and each equally surpass even the mani-
festations of genius of the Pastoral Symphony.
Nobody has ever depicted with the same truth
as he a sultry moonlight night, the stillness
broken only by the nightingale's trill and
the solemn murmur of the trees, as in Agathe's
grand scena ; or a gruesome night-scene in the
gloomy forest ravine, such as that in the finale
of the 2nd Act. In the latter kind of scene
Marschner may have surpassed him, but in
the former he still remains unapproachable.
With this descriptive faculty went hand in hand
consummate skill in orchestration. There
is something original and intoxicating in the
sound he brings out of the orchestra, a complete
simplicity, combined with perfect novelty. He
was able, as it were, to transport himself into
the soul of the instruments, and make them
talk to us like human beings, each in its own
language, each speaking when it alone has
power to lay bare the very heart of the action.
In this power of using the orchestra dramati-
cally Weber surpasses any composer in the
world ; Mozart himself knew nothing of such
an individualising of the resources of the
orchestra. Orchestral colouring handled in this
masterly manner naturally served principally to
characterise situations, but it was also used for
the personages. Nothing distinguishes Weber
as a bom dramatist more than the way he ap-
propriated to a character from its first entrance
upon the stage a certain mode of musical expres-
sion, which he maintained as a kind of ke^'uote
through all the varying emotions of the opera.



WEBER. I

A good example is the opening of the di^
between Agathe and Aennchen. With the vei
first phrase each strikes a note which completi,
exemplifies their different characters, and j
which they remain true to the end. The v«
first musical phrase sung by each gives a to]
perfectly in keeping with their different char
ters, and held firm to the end of the opera. W
all this distinctness of characterisation, howev
Weber's creations keep to general lines;
draws types rather than individuals. His fign'
have not the sharpness of outline that c
tinguish Mozart's ; they resemble rather )
characters in Schiller's dramas, while Mozas
may be compared to Shakespere's.

Weber had a wonderful talent for invent!
popular melodies, as he has shown in ma
Slings. ' In Der Freischutz,' says E. T.
Hoffmann, ' the rays of his genius scatt«|
through innumerable songs, seem to have a
centrated themselves in one focus.' Even Spo
who as a rule found Weber's music by
means sympathetic, conceded this, though
was wrong in calling it 'the gift of writing do
to the comprehension of the multitude.' 1
melodies in the Freischutz all catch I
ear at once, but have a bewildering cha
and depth as well ; while within the compreh
sion of everybody, they fascinate the world do
to the present day. These qualities are m
prominent in the Lieder and Lied-like fori
in which latter the opera abounds, a po
which in itself betrays the German popu
element, the Lied being the original foundat
of German opera. This Lied-form is introdui
four times in the 1st Act, and twice in the Is
besides appearing as an element of a larj
whole in Agathe's aria (' Leise, leise, from
Weise ') and the finale of the 3rd Act (' 1
Zukunft soil mein Herz bewahren'). Th
are precisely the numbers which have attaii
the greatest popularity. We need only ment
the Bridesmaids' and Huntsmen's choruses, '
waltz in the ist Act, and the Peasants' mar
This latter is taken direct from the peop!
music, and is an air which Weber must hi
heard when conducting the opera in Prag
At least, between 1816 and 1824, the musi
population of Bohemia were addicted to
march, the first part of which is identical w
that in Freischiitz.'

Perfect as are these smaller musical forms
must in justice be conceded that Weber did ;
always succeed with his larger ones, which of
have a sort of piecemeal effect. The constr
tion of a piece of music in grand, full, prop
tions, was to him a labour, and rarely a succf
ful one. He does not so much develop fr
within as superimpose from without, and
unfrequently the musical flow stagnates. 1
finale of the 3rd Act may be cited as an insta
of his way of falling short in this respect, j
the most part, however, this is only true

1 This discovery Is due to Ambros; see his " Cultur-hlstorl
Bilder aus dem Musikleben der Gegenwart," 47 (Leipzig. Mai
1860), and ' Bunte Blatter." 22.



WEBER.

unusic when considered simply as music,
lout regard to dramatic fitness, and such
icts are therefore much less noticeable in
'ormance, so accurately does he hit the
ropriate musical development for each
nent of the action. He has also a wonderful
er of keeping up one prevailing idea
lughout the piece, so that amid all the variety
uccessive emotions there is unity. A strik-
example of his ingenuity is the duet between
i,the and Aennchen in the beginning of the

Act, where two wholly different and equally
racteristic melodies are given in the most
rming manner. For this, however, he had
odel in the duet between Verbel and Florestan
a polonaise) in ' Lodoiska,' by Cherubini, a
poser to whom he looked up with great ad-
iition.

, The play of 'Preciosa' was adapted from
)vel (1613) of Cervantes' by an actor named
B Alexander Wolff, of Weimar, engaged in
lin in 18 16. Before Weber undertook, at
int Briihl's desire, to write music for it,
had several times used his pen in a similar



Online LibraryGeorge GroveA dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889) by eminent writers, English and foreign : with illustrations and woodcuts (Volume 4) → online text (page 100 of 194)