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Weber, Carl Maria von (1786-1826)

Carl Maria von Weber

born: 18 November 1786
died: 5 June 1826
country: Germany

Born in Holstein (North Germany) on 18 November 1786, Carl Maria von Weber was the eldest of three children to Franz Anton and Genovefa; both his parents were musical. Despite beginning a career as a military officer, his father was discharged from the militia and took up a number of musical directorships thereafter, including founding a theatre company in Hamburg. His mother was a Viennese singer. Weber had four musically gifted cousins on his father’s side, one of whom was Constanze Weber, who married Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in August 1782, a catalyst in Franz’s ambitions of making the young Weber into a child prodigy like his cousin-in-law.

A gifted violinist, Weber’s father taught the boy music and gave him a comprehensive education. In 1798 Weber went to Salzburg to study with Michael Haydn, younger brother of Joseph. That same year saw Weber’s first published work – six fughettas for piano. At the age of 14 his family moved to Freiburg where he wrote his first opera, The Silent Forest Maiden; it later went on to be produced in Freiburg, and then performed in Vienna, Prague and St Petersburg. The latter half of the first decade of the century was marred with troubles for Weber – debt, an ill-fated affair, his father misappropriated a vast amount of money – however, he remained a prolific composer.

Things brightened up from 1810; he visited several cities and spent time as Director of Opera in Prague, Director of Opera in Dresden and also worked in Berlin promoting and establishing German opera. The successful premiere of Der Freischütz in Berlin in 1821 led to performances all over Europe. His next opera, Euryanthe, was another success and in the year of its premiere (1823) he was invited to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, to compose and produce Oberon, which premiered in 1826.

Whilst in London, Weber was already suffering from tuberculosis, which then took hold entirely. He died at the house of Sir George Smart during the night of 4/5 June 1826. Buried in London, his remains were transferred 18 years later to the family vault in Dresden.

from notes by David Cairns © 2012

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