The Book of Musical Knowledge: The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers

By Arthur Elson | Go to book overview
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XIV
WEBER AND ROMANTICISM

CARL MARIA VON WEBER was born at Eutin in 1786. He was a cousin of the Constance Weber who married Mozart. His father had been the local choirmaster and conductor for some years, and had hoped for a child-prodigy among his offspring. The children of his first wife showed only a meagre amount of talent; so that when the young Carl brought forth a juvenile composition, the father began to think that his hopes might be realized. He did not hesitate to falsify his son's age, wishing thus to draw attention to a new child-prodigy. But he was not such a well-equipped teacher as Leopold Mozart, and his son was not nearly so precocious as the young Mozart.

Weber's father was restless as well as versatile. The family began a long period of wandering when Carl was only a year old. Vienna, Cassel, Meiningen, Nuremberg, and many other places were visited in search of theatrical or other employment; and it is only a slight exaggeration to say that Weber grew up behind the scenes.

Weber's training was desultory, though he had some lessons from Michael Haydn at Salzburg. At Munich, under Kalcher, the boy produced his first opera, "Die Macht der Liebe." Weber's father grew interested at this time in the lithographic work of his friend Senefelder, and thought of giving up music; but he did not carry out his design. In Freiburg, Weber produced "Das Waldmädchen," which was afterwards rewritten as "Sylvana." Next came "Peter Schmoll," which was still immature, and had little more success than its two predecessors.

After study with Abt Vogler, who helped him much, Weber became Kapellmeister at Breslau. There he wrote the opera "Rübezahl," now unfortunately lost. There, too, he accidentally ruined his attractive voice by sipping at a glass of his father's nitric acid, which he mistook for wine. Unlike the Irishman in the anecdote, who merely stated that he "had never tasted that brand before," Weber

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The Book of Musical Knowledge: The History, Technique, and Appreciation of Music, Together with Lives of the Great Composers, for Music-Lovers, Students and Teachers
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