Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Karl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber

Catholic Encyclopedia
Karl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber by Joseph Otten

From volume 15 of the work.

Composer, born at Eutin, Lower Saxony, 18 December, 1786; died in London, 5 June, 1826. His father, Franz Anton von Weber, a nobleman of reduced finances and a former army officer, later became a strolling theatrical manager. This gave young Weber an opportunity for acquiring that stage routine and adaptability which stood him in good stead later; but it also interfered with his general and musical education. His father realized the talents of the youth, and saw that he received the best available instruction in violin, piano-playing, and harmony. Karl enjoyed at two intervals and for a considerable time the theoretical guidance of Michael Haydn at Salzburg, and later of Abbé Vogler in Vienna. Upon the latter's recommendation, Weber was appointed in 1804 conductor of the opera at Breslau. On account of his youth he was unable to enforce discipline, and had to relinquish the post at the end of one year. In 1806 he entered the service of Prince Eugene and Prince Louis of Wurtemburg, as private secretary and teacher of music. In 1810 an indiscretion on his father's part caused him to be exiled. The next three years were spent in composing and concertizing. In 1813 he accepted the conductorship of the national opera at Prague, where he continued until called to Dresden in 1816 by the King of Saxony to organize a German opera company in the Saxon capital.

With the assumption of his duties at Dresden, Weber's real significance as a factor in German national art takes shape. The somewhat frivolous spirit of former years now gave way to seriousness. The romantic literature of the day, with its echoes of the Catholic past and its tendency towards a return to the centre of unity, appealed all the more to him on account of his own family traditions. His familiarity with and love of folk-song, and the fiery liberation poetry of the day, all tended to increase in him the intense national spirit to which his own temperament enabled him in turn to give such remarkable expression. He became, through his musical interpretations of the war and emancipation songs, his operas, and works for the pianoforte, not only the founder of the romantic school of music, but also a powerful factor in the movement for throwing-off the foreign yoke in matters political and artistic. The fame of his works spread over Europe. Their dramatic truth, vividness, and the glowing colours of his instrumentation made Weber the lion of every capital. In Feb., 1826, he went to London for the purpose of producing his opera "Oberon", which he had been invited to compose for Covent Garden Theatre. Weber had suffered from phthisis for a number of years, and the strain involved in the London engagement caused him to succumb. He was buried in Moorfields Chapel. Seventeen years later, through the instrumentality of Wagner, his remains were removed to Dresden. Besides "Der Freischutz", the operas "Oberon", "Eurianthe", "Silvana", "Peter Schmoll", "Turandot", "Rubezahl" , "Beherscher der Geister", "Abu Hassan" are the best known. Weber also created a large number of instrumental works, chiefly for the pianoforte. As royal director of music he had charge of the music in the Dresden court church. Two masses and a number of smaller works to liturgical texts, probably written in haste for special occasions, are below the standard of his secular works, and lack liturgical character.

BENEDICT, Carl Maria von Weber (London, 1896); BOURNE, Carl Maria von Weber in Great Composers (London, 1904); CROWEST, Carl Maria von Weber (London, 1891); REISSMANN, Carl Maria von Weber, Sein Leben und seine Werke (Berlin, 1886); WEBER, Carl Maria von Weber, tr. SIMPSON (London, 1865).