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 97 of 194)
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 97 of 194)
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aer has in truth outdone his great contem-

fiih. the completion of his cantata Weber de-
d to give up his post at Prague. The main
ct of his labours, the reorganisation of the
•a on a solid basis, was accomplished. To
luce first-rate results, and make it one of the
f institutions for promoting German dramatic
was out of the question under the circum-
ces in which he was placed, and with the means
lis disposal. But he thought that it could be
atained at its then state of efficiency without
aid ; and as Prague had nothing to offer for
self and the furtherance of his own artistic life
esigiied his post on Sept. 30, 1816. Projects
grand tour or a summons to some other great
Institution again floated through his mind,
bad been again in Berlin during the summer,
had produced his cantata on the anniversary
iVaterloo with such success that it was re-
ed on the 23rd June. Count Briihl, IfBand's
essor as Intendant of the court theatres, was
)ted to both Weber and his music, and tried,
igh vainly, to procure him the appointment of
jllmeister vice Hinimel. The post was occu-
provisionally by Bernhard Romberg, and not
I a title from the Prussian court could be had
Veber. On his return journey to Prague he
e the acquaintance at Carlsbad of Count
thum, Marshal to the Saxon Court, and he
ed to him a prospect of an invitation to
iden. After a formal farewell to Prague
iccompanied his fiancee to Berlin on a star-
igement, and remained there for the rest of
year busily engaged in composition. The
sonatas in Ab and D minor, the grand duo
'F. and clarinet, and several charming songs

PF. accompaniment, belong to this time.
Dec. 21, just before starting on a tournie to
iburg and Copenhagen, he received the news
the King of Saxony had appointed him Ca-
Deister of the German opera at Dresden,
'eber's work at Dresden, which was to last
line years and terminate only with his pre-
ire death, is of the highest importance. Not

did he there bestow on his countrymen
3 works which, with Mozart's, form the
I basis of German national opera, but he
(led an institution for the performance of
nan opera at one of the most musically dis-
iiished courts of Germany, which did not
jss one before. In all the other courts where
ic was cultivated German opera had for

stood on an equal footing with Italian,
ma, Berlin, Munich, Mannheim, and other
5s, had had a national opera by the end
16 1 8 th century, and in most cases the rise
he German opera had put an end to the
rate existence of its rival. In Dresden
e matters were different. From the begin-

of the 18th century, when Italian opera had
tied a perfection scarcely to be surpassed

VOL. IV. PT. 4.



even in Italy, it had there reigned supreme,
and by 1765 had even ceased to belong ex-
clusively to the court. Towards the end of the
century, German Singspiele were occasionally
performed in Dresden, but only by second-
rate actors, at a small theatre in the so-called
Linkesche Bad, the Court Capellmeister being
expressly prohibited from taking part in the per-
formance. After King Friedrich August's re-
turn from the war in 181 5 his Intendant Count
Heinrich Vitzthum induced him to found a Ger-
man opera, though only as an addition to the
Italian, and it was this institution which Weber
was called on to organise. Such a work naturally
could not be carried out without violent oppo-
sition from the Italians, who had hitherto had it
all their own way in Dresden, with the court
and nobility almost exclusively on their side.
The post of Capellmeister had been filled since
i8ii by a born Italian named Francesco
Morlacchi, a talented, but imperfectly ti'ained
musician, and a clever man with a taste for
intrigue. Weber had hardly entered on his
new office before he discovered that powerful
foes were actively though secretly engaged against
him. In accepting the post he had made it a
sine qua non that he and his institution should
be ranked on terms of perfect equality with
Morlacchi and his, and had expressly stipu-
lated for the title of Capellmeister, which was
held by the other. These conditions were agreed
to, and yet when the appointment was gazetted
he found himself styled ' Musikdirector,' a title
which, according to general usage, made him
subordinate to Morlacchi. Weber at once stated
with decision that he must decline the post. He
however allowed himself to be persuaded, for the
sake of the object, to fill the office provisionally,
until either a substitute had been engaged in his
place, or he himself had been formally' pronounced
Capellmeister. By Feb. 10, 1817, he had the
satisfaction of learning that the king had given
way. His salary (1500 thalers, = about £220)
had been from the first on an equality with Mor-
lacchi's, and on Sept. 13 the appointment was
confirmed for life. In Dresden he had a first-
rate orchestra and a tolerable body of singers
at his disposal, and found ample opportunity
for turning his knowledge and experience to

German opera having generally had spoken
dialogue, often forming a large proportion of the
work, a custom had arisen of filling the parts
with actors who could sing. The style was not a
very perfect one, the profession of an actor being
so wearing for the voice, and hence small parts
alone were fit for these singing actors. Of such
materials Weber's company at first exclusively
consisted. He was indeed allowed, with special
permission, to make use of the members of the
Italian opera, but this availed him little, because
the Italians could rarely speak German, and were
unfamiliar with German music. As for the chorus
it was at first non-existent. A few supers with
voices, and two or three subordinate solo-singers,
constituted the basses and tenors, while the




sopranos and altos were supplied by schoolboys,
as was once the custom at all German theatres.
With such materials it needed all Weber's gifts
of organisation and direction to produce results
which might bear comparison with the far better
appointed Italian theatre, and keep alive, or
rather kindle, an interest in German opera among
cultivated people.

The way in which he set about his task made
it clear that musical life in Dresden now pos-
sessed a man of power, who would keep
steadfastly in view the success of his under-
taking, without concerning himself as to whether
he were breaking with old traditions, abolishing
old and convenient usages, or even giving personal
offence. He knew that in order to prosper,
German opera must command the sympathy
of the German people. The Court, he was also
aware, took but a languid interest in it, while
the aristocracy considered foreign music more
distingui, and had as a body no community of
feeling with the people. For this reason his
first step, a very startling one to Dresden
society, was to publish in the 'Abendzei-
tung,' a literary paper with a large circula-
tion, an article addressed to the ' Amateurs of
Dresden,' laying down the conditions necessary
to his undertaking. Modestly bespeaking the
indulgence of the public for the first attempts
of a new institution, and frankly owning that
real excellence would only be attained after
many failures, the whole article shows how
clearly he perceived the goal at which he was
aiming, and how energetically he directed his
course towards it from the very first. 'The
Italians and the French,' he says, 'have fashioned
for themselves a distinct form of opera, with a
framework which allows them to move with ease
and freedom. Not so the Germans. Eager in
the pursuit of knowledge, and constantly yearn-
ing after progress, they endeavour to appropriate
anything which they see to be good in others.
But they take it aU so much more seriously.
With the rest of the world the gratification of the
senses is the main object ; the German wants a
work of art complete in itself, with each part
rounded off and compacted into a perfect whole.
For him, therefore, a fine ensemhle is the prime
necessity,' It had been so much the habit
hitherto in Dresden for society to look to the
Court, and mould its tastes in accordance
with those set in fashion from above, that it
was almost an impossibility for a Court official
to talk about his work as if he were in any
sense personally responsible for it, or wished
to be considered the head of his own institu-
tion. People were aware that Weber had been
leading a free and restless life as an independent
artist ; and that his songs of war and liberty had
endeared him to the heart of young Germany.
Hence he was set down as a revolutionary spirit
aiming at dangerous political innovations ; though
as a fact he was no politician, and never went
beyond the general interest natural to a cul-
tivated man in forms of government, social con-
ditions, and the universal rights of man. Another


of his actions which excited remark was t!
giving a very gay dinner and ball to his sta
himself the life and soul of the party. ' He
could he expect to keep up the respect of I
subordinates, if he began by treating them
this way ? ' His singers and actors were inde(
very much surprised by his strictness and pun
tuality in all business matters. At first tb
aroused much dissatisfaction, but when
was found that he could make an opera |
in all its parts, that at rehearsal his ears ai
eyes were everywhere at once, that he was
familiar with the details of acting, dressing, aj
scenery as he was with the music, and master
all the ins and outs of the opera as a whole, then
higher ideal gradually dawned upon the compan
and an immense respect for their new directc
The first opera he produced was M^hul's ' Josep!
(Jan. [3, 1 81 7). Ajs had been his successf
habit in Prague, he published two days b
forehand in the ' Abendzeitung, ' an artic
giving some information about the new opei
The performance was excellent ; indeed, all th
could be desired, as far as the ensemble wei
though the solo-singers were but indifferei
The engagement of competent leading artists w
his next care. Here he acted upon the princip
that German opera was not to be confined to nati'
works only, but should also produce Italian ai
French operas. To this end a numerous, we'
trained, and thoroughly cultivated body of artis
was requisite, and he felt it necessary to enga;
at least three leading sopranos, one first-ra
tenor, and one first-rate bass. His Intendai
sent him in March, 181 7, on a mission to Pragu
with the view of engaging Frln. Griinbaui
then singing at the theatre there. On tl
28th he conducted his 'Silvana,' and was enthi
siastically received, the people of Prague takir
every means of showing how much they fe
his loss. Immediately after his return 1
went to Leipzig, and played his Concerto :
Eb ata Gewandhaus concert, his scena fro
' Atalia ' and his ' Kampf und Sieg ' heir
also in the programme, Griinbaum sac
in Dresden, but was not engaged ; varioi
other stars were unsuccessful, and the yei
181 7 came to a close without any real a^
quisition having been made. However, Web;
had secured a regular chorus and choru
master, the post being filled first by Metzne
and then towards the close of 1819 b
Johannes Micksch. The latter had studied i
Italy, and was considered a first-rate teacher (
singing ; his principal object, however, was n(
so much expression as the production of a full an
even tone, which occasioned some differences <
opinion between him and Weber. On the whol
however, he proved an excellent teacher, an
was duly appreciated. A third reform unde;
taken by Weber in the early part of 1 81
was the re-arrangement of the orchestra. Th i
band had been hitherto placed in the san
manner as at the Italian opera, but this dispos
tion he wished to alter for one more suite
to the component parts of a modern orchestn ,


to the greater importance assigned to the
rumental part of an opera. The change was
irst strongly opposed, and he was obliged for
time to desist by the King's express command,
by bit, however, he made the changes he
ited, and his new arrangement having proved
If perfect, was permanently maintained.
Leber's work in Dresden very nearly came to
end in a few months' time, for on June 27,
7, a Capellmeistership in Berlin fell vacant,
Count Briihl the Intendant at once entered

negotiations with him on the subject,
ras an appointment he was strongly inclined
ccept. Berlin had many attractions for him,
so far society in Dresden had done little to
;e his residence there agreeable. The burn-

of the Berlin theatre on July 31, how-
', put a stop to the negotiations, and
igh several times renewed, nothing came
bem. One result at any rate was that his
)intment at Dresden was made for life, and

he was also admitted to a share in the
jtion of the musical services at the Catholic
pel Royal. He conducted for the first time
;. 24, 1 81 7, the music being a Salve Eegina
chuster and a litany by Naumann, for whose
■oh music Weber had a great admiration. It
1 evidence of his devout turn of mind that
re this his first oflBcial participation in divine
ice he confessed and received the Communion.
1 that he was often called on to compose for
rt festivities, the duties of his post became
sd and extensive, and absorbed much time,
colleague Morlacchi had frequent leave of
nee, and passed long periods of time in Italy
, from Sept. 1817 to June 1818), and then aU
vork fell upon Weber. A man loving free-

from restraint as he did, would have found
iry hard to carry on his work with the cheer-
3SS and elasticity of spirit so remarkable in

if he had not had a constant spring of
)iness and refreshment in married life. His
n with Caroline Brandt took place at Prague
.4, 1 81 7. On their wedding tour the young
lie gave concerts at Darmstadt and Giessen,
iared in Gotha before the Duke, and then went
e to Dresden, which they reached Dec. 20.
3 the early years of his work in Dresden be-
most of Weber's compositions d' occasion.
sincere devotion to the royal family made
hail opportunities of showing his loyalty, so

several of these works were undertaken
is own motion, and did not always meet

proper acknowledgment. The fullest year
bis respect was that of i88i, the 50th anni-
a.ry of the King's accession. Besides two or
B smaller works, Weber composed a grand
s in Eb for the King's name-day, and for
accession-day (Sept. 20) a grand Jubel-
ata, which the King did not allow to be
)rmed, so he added the well-known Jubel-
ture. The Mass in G may also be counted as
aging to this year, since it was finished on

4, 1819, for the golden wedding of the King
Queen. These official duties were not de-
shed perfunctorily, or as mere obligations.



Into each he put his full strength, though
well aware, as he wrote to Gausbacher (Aug. 24,
1818), 'that they were but creatures of a day
in the world of art, and from thefr ephemeral
nature always disheartening.' Shortly after the
performance of the Mass in G he was asked to
write a festival opera for the marriage of Prince
Friedrich August. He took up the idea with
great earnestness, chose for his subject the tale
of Alcindor in the Arabian Nights, and had
afready begun to think out the music, when he
found (June 28) that his commission had
been withdrawn, and Morlacchi requested to
prepare an Italian piece for the ceremony
(Oct. 9). Had 'Alcindor' been written, Weber
and Spontini might have been directly rivals,
for Spontini's opera of that name, composed
a few years later at Berlin, is drawn from the
same source. Perhaps also the work on which
Weber's world-wide fame rests, and which was to
give him a triumph over Spontini, might have
taken another form, or never have been written
at all. He had already been at work on it for two
years. Soon after his removal to Dresden he became
intimate with Friedrich Kind, who, after throw-
ing up his employment as an advocate in Leipzig,
had been living in Dresden solely by literature.
Weber having proposed to him to write a libretto,
Kind heartily assented, and the two agreed on
Apel's novel of 'Der Freischiitz,' which came out
in 1 8 10 and had excited Weber's attention. Kind
wrote the play in seven days ; on Feb. 21, 18 17,
he and Weber sketched the plan together, and
by March i the complete libretto was in Weber's
hands. The composition did not proceed with
equal celerity ; on the contrary, Weber took
longer over this than over any other of his
operas. Bit by bit, and with many interruptions,
it advanced to completion. The sketch of the
first number — the duet between Agathe and
Aennchen, with which the second act begins —
was written July 2 and 3, 18 17. Nothing more
was done that year, except the sketch of the
terzet and chorus in the 1st Act (' O, diese
Sonne ') and Agathe's grand air in the 2nd
(Aug. 6 to 25). In 1818 he only svorked at the
opera on three days (April 17, 21, and 22) On
March 13, 1819, he wrote the sketch of Cas-
par's air in D minor, which ends the ist Act.
Then follows another six months' pause, after
which he set to work continuously on Sept. 17,
and the last number, the overture, was com-
pleted on May 13, 1820. The Court composi-
tions of 1818 may have hindered his pro-
gress in that year, but in the summer of 18 19,
without any pressure from without, solely fol-
lowing the bent of his own genius, he wrote
several of his finest PF. compositions for 2 and
4 hands, including the Rondo in Eb, op, 62, the
' Aufforderung zuni Tanze,' op. 65, and the
Polacca brillante in E, op. 72. The PF. Trio
also, and many charming Lieder belong to this
summer, which Weber passed, like those of 1822,
1823, and 1824. in a little country place, Hoster-
witz, near Pillnitz.' By the time Der Frei-

1 The house be stayed in is still standing, and bears an inscription.





schiitz was at last finished, his delight in dra-
matic production had reached such a pitch that
he at once began and completed another dramatic
work, and started at any rate on a third. Count
Briihl, Intendant of the Berlin theatres, had asked
him for some new music to Wolff's p'ay of 'Pre-
ciosa,' Eberwein's not being satisfactory. Weber
did as he was requested, and wrote the music —
' a heavy piece of work and an important one,
more than half an opera,' as he says himself —
between May 25 and July 15, 1820. In the
meantime he was working at a comic opera,
' Die drei Pintos,' the libretto by Theodor Hell, a
Dresden poet, whose real name was Karl Wink-
ler. This work was still progressing in the fol-
lowing year.

Count Briihl, who had a great esteem for
Weber, informed him in the summer of 1819
that it was his intention to produce ' Der Frei-
schiitz' at the opening of the new theatre, then
in course of erection by Schinkel. The building
was to have been finished in the spring of 1820,
but was not ready till a year later. Weber had
intended to take the opportunity of his visit to
Berlin for making a professional tour, but it did
not seem advisable to postpone this for so long.
For the last two years he had been out of
health, and disquieting symptoms of the malady
which brought his life to a premature close had
begun to show themselves. Relaxation and re-
freshment were urgently necessary. He also
wished, after this interval of ten years, to appear
again in public as a pianist. He started with
his wife July 25, 1820, went first to Leipzig, to
his intimate friend Rochlitz, then on to Halle.
His settings of Korner's 'Leyer und Schwert'
had made Weber the darling composer of the
German student, as he discovered at Halle. The
greatest enthusiasm prevailed at the concert he
gave there, July 31. Among the students with
whom he formed relations was J. G. Lowe,
afterwards the greatest of German ballad-com-
posers, who took the whole arrangements for the
concert off his hands.* Still more enthusiastic
was his reception by the students of Gottingen,
where he arrived August 11, and gave a concert
Aug. 17. After it he was serenaded by the
students, who sang his Lied ' Liitzow's wilder
Jagd,' and, on his coming dowm to talk with
them, crowded round him cheering. Thence
they went by Hanover to Bremen, Oldenburg,
and Hamburg, where he left his wife, going on
to Liibeck, Eutin (his birthplace, which he
had not visited since 1802), and Kiel, from
whence he crossed over to Copenhagen. This was

1 Some papers entitled " Scenes from Dr. Karl LCwe's Life.' have
been published by Dr. Max Runze (from MS. notes bj Lowe's
daughterj in the ' Musikwelt ' (Berlin, l!S61). Ko. U (Apr. 9. ISSl)
coiitaiiis a charming vlcture of Weber's concert at Halle, and the
part Lowe took in it. Unfortunately it is historically inaccurate.
Dr. Bunze makes Weber play in July 1^20 his Concertstuck in
F minor, which was not written till 1821. and played In public for
the first time, June 2.5, in Berlin. Nor is this all ; Dr. Eunze declares
that in thi"; his own composition Weber could not keep time with
the orchesira. and says that in the fire of playing he accelerated
the tempo, the band liurried after him. but b.Te and bye fell behind,
and Lowe had to stop Weber and start them again. Dr. Eunze's
description would apply to the playing of a bad amateur, not to
that of a finished Capellmeister like Weber. All this too about the
BJiecution of a piece not then in existence!


the most brilliant point of his journey,
was presented to the King and Queen, plaj
at court on Oct. 4, and at a public cone
Out. 8, overwhelmed with applause on b
occasions. After another concert at Ha
burg on his way back, he reached Dre«
Nov. 4.

As a great pianist Weber was often asked
give les.sons, and did so. Pupils in the big'
sense of the word, that is to say artists stam]
with his own as a composer
pianist, he had none. For this his artistic dis
sition was too peculiar, his character too rest)
and unmethodical. We find a pupil nan
Freytag from Berlin studying the piano i
composition with him in Prague in 1816, i
are told that he made his d^but at a com
of Weber's (March 29), to his master's satisi
tion, but we never of him again fiom t
day forwards.* Marschner communicated w
him in 1818, sending him his opera *'Ht
rich IV. und D'Aubigne' from Pressburg, 1
coming himself Aug. 18, 1S19. Weber 1
much interested in the opera, and secured
performance at Dresden, where it was given
the first time, July 19, 1820.^ Marsch
settled in Dresden in the beginning of Aug
182 1, and in 1824 was appointed Musikdirec
of the opera, a post he retained till Web
death. The two maintained an intercou
which at times was animated, though We
never found Marschner a congenial compani
Marschner was undoubtedly strongly influen
by Weber's music ; it is evident in all his «
positions during his stay in Dresden, and alsc
his opera ' Der Vampyr.' And yet he cannot
called a pupil of Weber's. When he settled
Dresden he was 26, and a formed musician
that after passing through the Weber-period
recovered his independence in the ' Tem{
und Jiidiu' and 'Hans Heiling.' Weber's n
devoted and only real pupil was Jules Benet
of Stuttgart. He came to Weber in Febru;
182 1, and his account of their first inter viev
so charming that we venture to transcribe
' I shall never forget the impression of my f
meeting with him. Ascending the by no me
easy staircase which led to his modest home,
the third storey of a house in the old mar!'
place, I found him sitting at his desk, ;
occupied with the pianoforte arrangement of
Freischiitz. The dire disease which but
soon was to carry him ofif had made its mark
his noble features ; the projecting cheek-boi
the general emaciation, told their own tale; 1
in his clear blue eyes, too often concealed
spectacles, in his mighty forehead fringed b
few straggling locks, in the sweet expression
his mouth, in the very tone of his weak 1
melodious voice, there wa.s a magic power wli
attracted irresistibly all who approached hi
He received me with the utmost kindness, a
though overwhelmed with double duties dur

s Weber's Literarlsche Arbelten, 109 (Lebensbild, TOl. Ul).
3 Weber also wrote an article in its behalf- see p. 224 of
Lebensbild, and elsewhere.




■lacclii's absence, found time to give me daily
)ns for a considerable period.'* Benedict
I on to relate how Weber played him
schiitz and Preciosa, works then unknown
tie world, and what a fascinating effect both
nd his compositions made on him ; but what
ressed him even more was his ' rendering of
thoven's sonatas, with a fire and precision and
orough entering into the spirit of the com-

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 97 of 194)