Carl Maria von Weber – Biography


Biographical Résumé

  • Child from a family of musicians, early training with his father Franz Anton von Weber and his eldest half-brother Fridolin von Weber
  • 1789-1796 Travels with Weber’s theater company under the direction of his father in Thuringia, Franconia, the Upper Palatinate and the Archbishopric of Salzburg
  • 1796-1804 Intensive musical training with various teachers (including Michael Haydn and Abbé Vogler), first compositions
  • 1804-1806 Kapellmeister at the theater in Breslau
  • 1807-1810 employed as privy secretary in Stuttgart
  • 1810-1813 “Traveling years”, initially concert activity in the Mannheim / Heidelberg area and renewed lessons with Vogler in Darmstadt (1810/11), then travels in search of a position with concert activity in southern and central Germany, Prague and Berlin
  • 1813-1816 Kapellmeister at the Estates Theater in Prague
  • 1817-1826 Court Kapellmeister in Dresden

Early childhood (1786–1789)

Born November 18/19(?) 1786 in Eutin

Family stays in Hamburg and Vienna from mid-1787, in Kassel and Marburg from May 1789

Carl Maria von Weber was probably born in Eutin on November 18 or 19, 1786. Only the day of his baptism in the castle chapel there has been verified: November 20, 1786 (baptismal names: Carl Friedrich Ernst; the second name Maria is only documented in later years; godfather: Carl von Hessen, Danish governor in Schleswig).

In April 1779, his father Franz Anton von Weber had taken up the post of prince-bishop’s bandmaster in Eutin, but the court chapel there was already dissolved in 1781 due to cost-cutting measures. F. A. von Weber was subsequently urged to take up the post of town musician in Eutin (from 1785), but was allowed to retain his title as court bandmaster. Dissatisfied with his new occupation, he asked to be relieved of his duties in 1787 and for his pension entitlements to be paid out.

Around mid-1787, he moved temporarily to Hamburg with his (second) wife Genovefa (married in Vienna on August 20, 1785) and son Carl Maria, where Jeanette von Weber, a daughter from his first marriage, was employed as a singer at the theater. In the same year, he moved on to Vienna (as the home of Franz Anton von Weber’s nieces Josepha Hofer, Aloysia Lange, Constanze Mozart and Sophie Haibel, Vienna was a destination for the Webers both before and after the marriage), but returned to Hamburg in the late summer of 1788 (by early September at the latest).

After Jeanette von Weber was dismissed by her father (March 1789), the family left Hamburg in April and in May joined the acting company of directors Johann Friedrich Toscani and Peter Carl Santorini, which performed in Kassel, Marburg and Hofgeismar. In September 1789, the Webers left Kassel after Genovefa von Weber had recently given birth to a boy (George Friedrich Carl von Weber).

Travels of Weber’s theater company (1789-1796)

Franz Anton von Weber tried three times to establish himself as the director of his own theater company:

  • 1789/90 in Meiningen
  • 1791-1794 in Nuremberg, Erlangen, Amberg and Bayreuth
  • 1795/96 in Salzburg and Hallein

While still in Kassel, Franz Anton von Weber planned to found his own acting company, with which he performed at Elisabethenburg Castle in Meiningen, Thuringia, between September 19, 1789 and April 19, 1790, and which initially consisted mainly of family members. Financial difficulties put an end to the project after only seven months; the whereabouts of Franz Anton, Genovefa and Carl Maria von Weber are uncertain for a whole year thereafter (possibly a short stay in Regensburg in 1790).

There is no evidence of the Webers again until the beginning of May 1791: as members of the Gesellschaft deutscher Schauspieler led by Friedrich Häussler in Nuremberg (until September 1, 1791) and in Mergentheim (from September 11, 1791). In Nuremberg, Father Weber then tried his hand first as a language teacher and soon afterwards a second time as an independent theater director; he ran two seasons: November 10, 1791 to March 8, 1792 and May 7 to September 11, 1792 with detours to Erlangen (from May 25, 1792). From November 1791, the young Carl Maria von Weber also took part in the performances in children’s roles.

This was followed by a guest performance in Amberg in the Upper Palatinate from mid-September to around the end of November 1792. The planned return to Nuremberg did not materialize; the Webers moved to Ansbach at short notice (December 1792), where the father is attested as the organizer of redoubts.

It was not until March 1793 that a new venue was available for the theater troupe in Bayreuth. There are also records of two seasons there (March 16 to June 15, 1793 and October 1, 1793 to spring 1794), interrupted by a summer season in Erlangen (June 21 to September 26, 1793). Increasing financial difficulties were the reason why father Weber resigned as director and handed over his company to Daniel Gottlieb Quandt (March 1794).

Mother Genovefa von Weber’s employment at the Weimar court theater (June to October 1794, with detours to Lauchstädt, Rudolstadt and Erfurt) remained a brief intermezzo – the young Carl Maria probably first appeared in concert in Weimar in 1794.T Whether he received basso continuo lessons from Johann Georg Reich at the same time, as claimed in his necrology, remains uncertain; Weber made no mention of this in his autobiography.

In the autumn of that year, the Webers traveled to Salzburg and joined Franz Xaver Glöggl’s theater company, to which his son Edmund von Weber had already belonged. After the end of Glöggl’s Salzburg season (17 February 1795), father Weber tried his hand as theater director in the archiepiscopal residence city for the last time; he again organized two seasons: 18 May to 6 July 1795 and from around August/September 1795 to February 1796; in between there was a summer guest performance (July/August 1795) in the nearby town of Hallein, which belonged to the prince-archbishopric.

Years of education (1796-1804)


  • in Hildburghausen 1796/97 with Johann Peter Heuschkel
  • in Salzburg 1798 with Michael Haydn
  • in Munich 1798-1800 with Johann Nepomuk Kalcher and Giovanni Valesi
  • in Vienna 1803/04 with Georg Joseph Vogler

in the meantime project of a lithographic office in Freiberg/Saxony (1800/01), stays in Munich (1801) and Salzburg (1801/02), concert tour through central and northern Germany (1802), stay in Augsburg (1802/03)

After the project of an independent Weber theater troupe had finally failed, Franz Anton von Weber devoted the following years in particular to the musical education of his son Carl Maria in the hope of being able to present him as a “musical prodigy”. From March 1796, the court organist Johann Peter Heuschkel took over the lessons in Hildburghausen, to whom Weber, in retrospect, paid the highest praise, particularly with regard to the technical foundations of his piano playing. After moving to Salzburg (around the fall of 1797), Michael Haydn was recruited as a teacher (from the beginning of 1798), although his counterpoint studies did not inspire the pupil. The fugues op. 1 composed during this time can hardly be regarded as evidence of individual artistic talent. The time in Salzburg was overshadowed by the early death of his mother Genovefa; the Webers’ youngest child, Antonetta, born on June 14, 1797 in Hildburghausen, died shortly afterwards (December 29, 1798 in Munich). Her aunt Adelheid von Weber, who had been living with the family for some time, took over the role of mother. A trip to Joseph Haydn in Vienna in mid-1798 (probably in the hope of further lessons) was unsuccessful.

In the fall of 1798, the Webers moved to Munich. Instead of the originally intended Joseph Graetz, Johann Nepomuk Kalcher took over the composition lessons there, and a first opera (Die Macht der Liebe und des Weins) was written under his supervision. The young Weber also took singing lessons from Giovanni Valesi (actually Johann Evangelist Wallishauser or Walleshauser). From the fall of 1799 (after a journey through Franconia and Thuringia in July 1799), his musical training was supplemented by training in craftsmanship: In the workshop of Alois Senefelder and Franz Gleißner, Carl Maria von Weber acquired basic knowledge of lithography and worked on the technical perfection of the still young lithographic technique.

The project to set up his own lithography workshop was unsuccessful: After an exploratory trip through Bohemia and Saxony (April/May 1800), father and son Weber settled in the Saxon mining center of Freiberg for this purpose in autumn 1800; however, contact with Carl von Steinsberg’s theater troupe playing there brought the young Weber’s musical interests back to the fore. In just a few weeks, he wrote the opera Das Waldmädchen, which was performed in Freiberg on November 24 and in Chemnitz on December 5 (and was subsequently also performed in St. Petersburg in 1804, in Vienna in 1804/05 and in Prague in 1806). The public dispute in the Freyberger gemeinnützige Nachrichten about the quality of the opera poisoned the atmosphere in Freiberg, so that the Webers returned first to Munich, then to Salzburg (November 1801 at the latest), with intermediate stops in Chemnitz (April/May 1801), Hildburghausen and Nuremberg (May 1801).

A third opera (Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn) was written in Salzburg, which received a positive review from his former teacher Michael Haydn, among others. His acquaintance with the amateur musician Thaddäus Susan, who lived there, developed into a life-long friendship; Weber’s letters to Susan from the following years bear witness to his wide-ranging artistic interests. In the summer of 1802, the Webers went to Augsburg via Munich (July), embarked on a concert tour through central and northern Germany (as far as Hamburg and Schleswig) in August and finally returned to Augsburg in December, where contacts were made with the publisher Johann Carl Gombart, among others, and the Peter Schmoll was probably premiered. Around this time, the young Weber began to collect music theories, which he studied intensively and discussed with his friend, the doctor Munding.

In August 1803, Carl Maria von Weber traveled to Vienna via Munich and Salzburg to continue his musical studies with Georg Joseph Vogler. Unlike Michael Haydn’s counterpoint teaching, which was based on Johann Joseph Fux, Vogler’s teaching method proved to be particularly stimulating and beneficial for the young Weber. The studies, which continued until May 1804, left clear traces in his compositional output: the musical works written from 1804 onwards show noticeable progress in terms of formal treatment and instrumentation.

Silesia (1804-1807)

1804-1806 Music director at the theater in Breslau, from June 1806 without a position, stays in Carlsruhe (now Pokój) in Silesia for several months until February 1807

When the management of the Breslau theater turned to Vogler in 1804 in search of a new musical director, he recommended his pupil Weber for the post of music director, which the not yet eighteen-year-old actually received. At the end of May, he traveled via Salzburg, Munich, Augsburg (June 5 to 14) and presumably Carlsbad to Wroclaw, where he took up his new post on July 11. The experiences of the Breslau years laid the foundations for Weber’s later work as Kapellmeister in Prague and Dresden and established his reputation as a conductor. His ambitious and committed work as an orchestral conductor was praised in the press, even if his choice of tempo (which he felt was too fast) was criticized on several occasions. However, Weber’s stressful everyday life in the theater left him little room for his own creative work, so he decided not to extend his two-year contract. A joint opera project with theater director Johann Gottlieb Rhode (Rübezahl) remained unfinished. The anecdote handed down in various forms about an accident involving Weber (ingestion of a corrosive acid), which is said to have been one of the reasons for the end of his service in Breslau, can be relegated to the realm of legend with some certainty.

From the end of June 1806, Weber tried to establish himself as a freelance musician (primarily as a music teacher). He also planned a concert tour, for which he had the honorary title of “music director” conferred on him (as a “promotional tool”) by Duke Eugene (I) of Württemberg, who lived in Silesia and held Weber in high esteem (July 1806). The travel project was initially thwarted by the growing political tensions and increasing military conflicts during the Napoleonic Wars, and so Weber gratefully accepted the invitation of the art-loving duke to his castle in Carlsruhe (now Pokój) in Silesia, where he stayed from October 1806 at the latest. As a Prussian officer, the Duke himself was involved in the battles against the French army and only returned there towards the end of Weber’s stay in Carlsruhe.

Freed from financial constraints, the young musician devoted himself entirely to composing in the winter of 1806/07 and created two symphonies, instrumental concertos and wind music, among other works; he also gave musical instruction to his host’s son, the young Eugene (II) of Württemberg. The arrival of French troops in Silesia put an end to this carefree intermezzo – the Duke had to cut back considerably on his small court household and dispense with his court orchestra, whereupon Weber left Carlsruhe on February 23, 1807.

Württemberg (1807-1810)

Concert tour via Saxony and Franconia (March to July 1807) to Württemberg, employed there as Privy Secretary to Duke Louis of Württemberg;

Involved in financial affairs of his employer and expelled from the country after trial in 1810

In search of new employment, Weber set off from Breslau in March 1807 on the concert tour he had already planned the previous year, the main destination of which was Stuttgart, to which his host from the winter of 1806/07, Duke Eugen (I) of Württemberg, gave him letters of recommendation. Hopes of concert appearances in Dresden and Leipzig were dashed, and it was only between April and July that there is evidence of concert appearances in Ansbach, Nuremberg, Erlangen and Bayreuth. In order to earn a living, Weber also had to work briefly as a secretary to a French officer (Garnier).

Weber reached Stuttgart on July 17, but was unable to find a musical position as he had hoped. Instead, he had to make do with the post of Privy Secretary to Duke Louis, the younger brother of the King of Württemberg, in Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg. He was entrusted with the management of the duke’s finances and was employed as tutor to the ducal children and accompanied his employer on his travels (including to Pforzheim, Karlsruhe and Ems in 1809). His father Franz Anton von Weber also followed his son to Württemberg after the death of his sister Adelheid (arriving in Stuttgart between November 28 and 30).

Even though music only played a marginal role in Weber’s profession in Württemberg (as a teacher), he by no means “renounced” it – as he described it in his autobiography. He composed several works for piano (solo, four hands and quartet) and, encouraged by his father’s friend and mentor Franz Danzi, who worked as court conductor in Stuttgart, he also wrote works for the stage: the opera Silvana (based on the older Waldmädchen) and the incidental music for Schiller’s Turandot. Weber’s autobiographical novel Tonkünstlers Leben, which he began during this period and worked on, sometimes with long interruptions, until 1820/21, remained a fragment. Weber’s music journalistic works also began during his Württemberg years (apart from the early polemical writings on Waldmädchen from 1801 in Freiberg and a fragment in Breslau).

Involved in the Duke’s financial manipulations (including buying off recruits for the Napoleonic campaigns) and also burdened with high private debts due to an expensive lifestyle (as in his Breslau years), Weber was imprisoned at the beginning of 1810; the charges were embezzlement and bribery. Weber was able to deny the accusation of embezzlement of funds; in the end, the trial was limited to civil law aspects, as the presumed mastermind of the transactions, Duke Louis, was not to be exposed. Weber undertook to pay off his debts (repayment of the last obligations in April 1816) and was expelled from the country with his father.

Traveling years (1810-1813)

Concert activity in the Mannheim/Heidelberg area, from April 1810 renewed lessons with Vogler in Darmstadt; founding of the Harmonischer Verein, which was recruited from Weber’s circle of friends there as well as fellow pupils of Vogler

From February 1811, travels in search of new employment, numerous concert appearances in southern Germany (especially Munich), Switzerland, Prague, Leipzig, Gotha, Weimar, Dresden and Berlin

The negative experiences of the past Stuttgart period, but especially the enormous financial obligations that now had to be met, led to a rethink: as an act of self-discipline, Weber began to keep a diary, which from then on served him as a “moral and financial accountability report”. These notes, which were kept until shortly before his death and have survived almost in their entirety (with gaps in 1814), are the most important biographical sources for the years 1810-1826, even if the predominantly keyword-like structure makes them difficult to understand in places.

In the diaries kept by year, Weber’s first four years (1810-1813) are described as “travel years”. In fact, Weber changed his place of residence very often until settling in Prague in the spring of 1813. Immediately after being expelled from Württemberg, the Webers initially settled in Mannheim, supported by numerous letters of recommendation; Carl Maria von Weber soon lived quite successfully as a freelance musician from concerts and the sale of his compositions to publishers (close contacts with André in Offenbach, Simrock in Bonn, Gombart in Augsburg, Kühnel in Leipzig) and theater directors (including the premiere of Silvana on 16 September 1810 in Frankfurt/Main). The hope that Stéphanie von Baden would appoint Weber as orchestra director in Mannheim in November 1810 was dashed, possibly due to Peter Ritter’s opposition, as Weber claimed in a letter to his father in September 1811.

From April 1810, Weber also resumed his studies with Vogler, who was now living in Darmstadt; in the following months, he virtually “commuted” between Mannheim, Heidelberg and Darmstadt. Under the supervision of his teacher, he composed the opera Abu Hassan, among other works. Together with his fellow students Johann Baptist Gänsbacher and Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer (later Giacomo Meyerbeer) as well as his friends Gottfried Weber and Alexander von Dusch, he founded the so-called Harmonischer Verein, which saw itself as a lobby and platform for young musicians and artists (especially those involved) and a spokesperson for new artistic trends. The statutes were largely shaped by Weber; the center of the association was Mannheim (G. Weber). The aim was to influence the debate on music aesthetics through targeted publication activities – however, after an intensive start from 1813, the work in accordance with the association’s aims was largely limited to the two Webers.

In January 1811, Weber left Mannheim (where his father stayed behind and died the following year, on April 16, 1812); in February 1811, he left Darmstadt. The main aim of his subsequent travels, which Weber financed mainly through concerts, was to find new employment. He first came to Munich (from March 14) via Giessen, Aschaffenburg, Würzburg, Bamberg and Augsburg. There he was not only able to premiere his Abu Hassan (June 4), but also met an important companion in the clarinettist Heinrich Joseph Baermann. The three concerto compositions that Weber wrote for his friend (in later years also three chamber music works for clarinet) caused a sensation.

Negotiations in Munich for an appointment as music director of the Wiesbaden court theater came to nothing, as did later hopes of a position in Gotha or Dresden (1812; see, among other things, the letter to H. Lichtenstein dated November 1, 1812).

After a journey through Switzerland (August to October), during which a “Noth- und Hülfsbüchlein für reisende Tonkünstler” was projected (drafts 1811/12), Munich was the starting point for a joint concert tour with Baermann to Prague (4. to December 23), Leipzig (December 27, 1811 to January 16, 1812), Gotha (January 17 to 26), Weimar (January 27 to February 4), Dresden (February 5 to 19) and Berlin (from February 20), where Weber rehearsed his Silvana (in a revised version).

In Berlin, he made contact with Adolph Martin Schlesinger, his main publisher in the following years, and found a new large circle of friends (mainly in the environment of the Singakademie led by Carl Friedrich Zelter) and thus the creative atmosphere that inspired his work. The city remained Weber’s dream destination for many years, even though all attempts at employment failed.

Invitations from Duke August of Saxe-Gotha and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna in Weimar brought the composer back to Thuringia in September 1812; a new concert tour was then planned, which was to lead to Italy via Prague and Vienna, but this plan came to nothing when Weber was offered a position as Kapellmeister of the Estates Theatre by the Prague theater director Johann Karl Liebich on 13 January 1813. Weber signed the contract (February 8) and limited his travel plans to Vienna (arrival March 29), from where he returned directly to Prague (arrival May 6). The trip to Vienna could now be combined with official business: After the dissolution of Eszterhazy’s court orchestra, Weber hoped to be able to engage musicians and singers for Prague.

Prague (1813-1816)

Kapellmeister at the Estates Theater (see also the documentation “Carl Maria von Weber as Opera Director of the Prague Estates Theater from 1813 to 1816”)

Weber initially had great reservations about accepting the position in Prague; he noted in his diary on January 15, 1813: “I finally decided with a heavy heart to say yes, and to make a contract for three years”; the decisive factor was above all the hope of “enjoying the pleasure of soon being able to pay my debts as a good fellow” (diary January 13), but also the certainty that as musical director he would have comprehensive (and sole) creative freedom in the area of music theater. His work in the theater began even before the contractually agreed assumption of office (Michaelmas 1813). The enormous workload meant that Weber himself described the Prague period as his “yoke years” (title page of the diary 1814). He not only learned the Bohemian language in order to be able to communicate better with his musicians; above all, the organization of work, repertoire design and ensemble structure of the theater seemed to him to be in need of revision. He also felt that the audience response to his ambitious efforts to establish a sophisticated German-language opera (including the premiere of Spohr’s Faust on September 1, 1816, the first performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio and Meyerbeer’s Alimelek) was too poor. In the national press, however, Weber’s efforts to raise the standard and his successful work at the helm of the Prague Opera Orchestra were certainly noticed, so that he soon gained a reputation as an outstanding orchestra conductor.

Personal circumstances also clouded his time in Prague. A tuberculosis infection, which Weber had probably already contracted as a child (his mother had died of tuberculosis), led to repeated bouts of illness (including in May/June 1813). He tried to counteract his health problems with cures (including in Liebwerda in July 1814) (also in the subsequent years in Dresden). In addition, his relationship with the married actress and dancer Therese Brunetti and then his relationship with the actress Caroline Brandt, which was characterized by great mood swings, repeatedly led to conflicts and disagreements. Weber had known Brandt for some time; she had played the title role in the premiere of his Silvana in Frankfurt in 1810. In 1813, he himself tried to engage the popular soubrette from Frankfurt to Prague. After a temporary separation (summer 1815), however, the couple reunited.

Weber’s official duties were a particular hindrance to his compositional output. In addition to everyday works for the theater (interludes, arrangements, incidental music) and the balls organized by Liebich (waltzes etc.), the main works of this period were the settings of the Körner poems from Leyer und Schwert and the cantata Kampf und Sieg, both of which were inspired by trips to Berlin (August/September 1814) and Munich (June to September 1815). In Prague itself, Weber complained about a lack of artistic stimulation and a lack of a creative artistic environment.

This was probably the deciding factor in not renewing the three-year contract in 1816, even though Weber had not yet received a follow-up offer for a new position at the time. He terminated his contract in due time on April 14, 1816. On July 11 of that year, he received an offer to take over the musical direction of the Leipzig Opera (cf. the diary and the letters to J. Gänsbacher dated August 4 and to G. Weber dated September 17, 1816); however, this offer was rendered irrelevant by a subsequent application from Dresden. Weber had already rejected a corresponding offer to move to the Königsberg theater in the fall of 1814 (see the letter to H. Lichtenstein dated November 21/22, 1814).

Even before the end of his work in Prague (at the beginning of October 1816), Weber ensured that his successor (unlike himself) had orderly records of orchestral and rehearsal work, casting matters and other official matters (including the Prague notebook with notes on rehearsals between 1813 and 1816).

Weber traveled to Berlin together with Caroline Brandt; in the weeks he spent there (October 13, 1816 to January 12, 1817), he composed piano and chamber music works as well as songs in a veritable creative frenzy. Berlin also set the course for the rest of his life: on November 19, Weber became engaged to Caroline Brandt (before her departure to Prague via Dresden on November 20); on December 25, he received his appointment to the Dresden Court Theatre.

Dresden (1817-1826)

Court Kapellmeister, establishment of the German department of the court theater

Composition of the operas Der Freischütz (premiere 1821 Berlin), Euryanthe (premiere 1823 Vienna) and Oberon (premiere 1826 London)

As part of a reorganization of the theater system in Dresden, Heinrich Count Vitzthum von Eckstädt, who had been in charge since August 1815, proposed hiring “Carl Maria von Weber, who was most famous in Germany as a composer and music director” in the summer of 1816. On December 14, 1816, Friedrich August I then agreed to employ Weber as “music director of the German opera” if he was also prepared to “take care of the church service” and participate in the “direction of the Italian opera”. Weber only realized the potential for conflict contained in these formulations during his term of office, which began in mid-January 1817. As soon as he took up his post, he discovered that, according to the rescript, he had not been granted the “KapellMeisterschaft” and thus equal status to his colleague at the Italian Opera, Francesco Morlacchi, but only the subordinate position of music director – however, after intervening, he received the news on February 10 that the King had granted him the higher office (his lifelong appointment followed in September of the same year). The countless church services and the constant need to stand in for the ailing or frequently absent Morlacchi remained a constant theme of his letters during the Dresden years and at times noticeably inhibited his productivity.

The rivalry with his Italian colleague often noted in the literature, on the other hand, was not so much a personal one, but rather, in addition to the burden of frequently taking on his “services”, was primarily related to the better equipment of the established Italian opera and its clear preference at court; for example, compositions for official court ceremonies (such as wedding cantatas) were usually commissioned from the more senior Kapellmeister Morlacchi for the Italian court theater department (Weber only stood in for the absent Morlacchi in the autumn of 1817). In addition, Weber had considerably more extensive rehearsal obligations in the German department than his colleague in the Italian one.

While Morlacchi was able to shine with Italian singing stars, Weber had to painstakingly build up his staff in the German department over the years (who were also to be deployable in drama as far as possible) and thus remained very limited in his repertoire options for a long time or was only able to realize some productions in the presence of foreign guests (e.g. Therese Grünbaum and the Weixelbaum couple in 1817). A draft of the “State of a German Opera Company” dating from May 1817 bears eloquent witness to the development work to be done, which included not only many organizational matters (Weber also had to take care of the performances in the suburban Lincke Baths) but also the founding of a separate opera chorus (for both opera departments) (supported by Vitzthum). Until Weber’s death, the singing staff of the German opera – apart from the young Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, the tenor Friedrich Gerstäcker, who moved to Kassel in 1821, or the soprano Charlotte Veltheim, who was hired in 1822 – remained rather modest and was only enhanced by the participation of singers from Italian opera who were prepared to perform in German operas (such as Friederike Funk, Antonie Hunt or Luigia Caravoglia-Sandrini).

In September 1820, Hans-Heinrich von Könneritz took over the post, with whose work (which favored Italian opera) Weber was deeply dissatisfied: “Perhaps I will soon see what my honest zeal has laboriously built and fought for over the past four years sink back into nothingness,” he wrote in a letter in mid-January 1821, and indeed, according to his diary, Weber spoke to him a short time later “about the abolition of German opera”. The disgruntlement only subsided two years later with the appointment of the artistic director Wolf Adolph August Freiherr von Lüttichau, who, according to a letter from Weber to Ignaz Franz Mosel, possessed “that certain something” that qualified him as a “well-experienced helmsman on the seas of art and theater”.

His participation in numerous concert academies, performances by artists in the entreacts, at charity concerts or the subscription concerts held in 1821/22, but also in court concerts or table and private music at court should not go unmentioned here – Weber enjoyed increasing esteem as a conductor (also outside Dresden).

Despite all the problems during the Dresden years, Weber remained loyal to his royal employer and turned down a financially lucrative call to the court in Kassel in the autumn of 1821, but was also increasingly skeptical about the repeated - but ultimately unrealizable – efforts of the Berlin intendant Carl Graf von Brühl to win him over to the Prussian capital.

Weber’s somewhat ambivalent relationship with his place of employment is also reflected in the fact that during the Dresden years he composed a considerable number of homage compositions for the court (including L’Accoglienza WeV B.12 and the Jubel-Kantate WeV B.15 ), a number of incidental music works and two masses for church services, but all of his other operas and the extensive incidental music for Preciosa were written for external stages (only the unfinished comic opera Die drei Pintos on a text by the playwright Karl Theodor Winkler, begun in 1820, was conceived for the Dresden court). Apart from the song cycles and piano compositions (including the 4th piano sonata dedicated to Friedrich Rochlitz), which were inspired more privately or through negotiations with his main publisher Adolph Martin Schlesinger, only the dedication of the concert piece to Princess Marie Auguste of Saxony, which premiered in Berlin, refers to Dresden among the larger works.

Nevertheless, in addition to the stimulating circle of friends in Berlin, Weber now also came into contact with a circle of Dresden personalities, many of whom met in the so-called Liederkreis, through which Weber met Friedrich Kind, among others, with whom he worked on Freischütz between 1817 and 1820 (premiere on June 18, 1821 at the Königliches Schauspielhaus Berlin). In Dresden, he also met Helmina von Chézy, with whom he then realized the “grand opera” Euryanthe (premiere on 25 October 1823 at the Kärtnertortheater) commissioned by the Italian impresario Domenico Barbaja for Vienna between 1821 and 1823.

Weber’s artistic verve at the beginning of his Dresden period is also expressed in the resumption of the idea of “dramatic-musical notes” in the Dresdner Abend-Zeitung or the more extensive review of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Undine; however, his literary activity slackened noticeably (despite a few smaller contributions to the Liederkreis), and the novel fragment “Tonkünstlers Leben” also remained unfinished after the publication of three fragments in Kinds Muse in 1821. Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the diverse stimuli provided by the contacts in the Liederkreis, nor the multiple stays in Berlin (including the premiere of Freischütz in 1821 and the Berlin premiere of Euryanthe in 1825), which were extremely important for his compositional activity, nor the stimuli provided by the journeys undertaken during the Dresden years: In addition to the trip following his wedding to Caroline Brandt in Prague on November 4, 1817, the concert tour through central and northern Germany to Copenhagen (July 25 to November 3, 1820), the two trips to Vienna (February 11 to March 26, 1822 and September 16 to November 10, 1823) and the trip to the Klopstock Festival in Quedlinburg (June 27 to July 5, 1825) should be mentioned here.

The Dresden period also saw two cures: from July 8 to August 14, 1824 in Marienbad and from July 3 to September 1, 1825 in Ems. These cures were not only signs of physical exhaustion and increasing health problems: The disappointment at the sometimes very critical reception of his Euryanthe, the accumulation of work commitments (Morlacchi was in Italy from November 1823 to September 1824, his colleague Franz Anton Schubert, who was responsible for church music, died after a long illness in March 1824) and the less than smooth collaboration with Schubert’s successor Vincenzo Rastrelli and the young Heinrich Marschner, who was employed as assistant to the two opera departments in 1824, were accompanied by a depletion of Weber’s creative energies as well. It was only with the work on Oberon and the prospect of a lucrative stay in London, which Weber was able to discuss personally with the director of the Covent Garden Theatre, Charles Kemble, and the conductor George Smart during the Ems cure, that this crisis seemed to be overcome.

Trip to London and death (1826)

Journey to London to rehearse Oberon, extensive concert and conducting engagements

Death on June 5

Weber had already received offers to write an opera for London in 1822, shortly after the sensational success of his Freischütz; however, the plans only took on a more concrete form in 1824, when he was commissioned to set Oberon to music. The libretto by James Robinson Planché was not complete until February 1825, so that the originally planned premiere in 1825 was postponed until the following year.

Weber left Dresden on February 16, 1826 with the still unfinished score and first traveled to Paris (where he stayed from February 25 to March 2) in order to explore opportunities for further opera commissions (corresponding offers had already been received). The great interest shown in his person by the Parisian music world (including meetings with Paer, Cherubini, Rossini, Auber) strengthened his hopes in this respect.

On March 5, he reached London, where he not only had to complete, rehearse and perform his new opera (12 performances under Weber’s direction between April 12 and 25), but also conducted concert performances of Der Freischütz and took part in other concerts. The accumulation of official and social obligations increasingly affected the composer, who was already weakened by his illness and the strenuous journey; he died on the night of June 4-5, 1826. On June 21, his body was buried in the crypt of the Catholic Moorsfield Chapel. In 1844, the coffin was transferred to Dresden to the family vault designed by Gottfried Semper in the Catholic cemetery there. The funeral service was conducted by Richard Wagner, who composed funeral music (WWV 73) and a male chorus (WWV 72) for the occasion and delivered his famous eulogy at Weber’s final resting place.


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