Weber, Carl Marie von


Founder of the German romantic opera; the first composer to create German musical liberty and to do away with Italian Opera in Germany. Like Bach he was the most celebrated member of a musical family who all followed the same general line of work; but while Bach's field was Protestant church-music, Weber's was national opera. The family is first heard of in Lower Austria, where Johann Baptist was made a noble in 1622. His brother, Joseph Franz Xaver was the first musically inclined member of the family, and his son and grandson, both bearing the name Fridolin, followed in his steps; the second Fridolin becoming Mozart's father-in-law when that great artist married Constance, one of his many musical daughters. Fridolin abandoned the family title, but it was continued by his brother, Franz Anton, the father of Carl Marie. Franz Anton von Weber was an extremely eccentric and picturesque character. He was devoted to music, led a veritable gypsy life of wandering, and sampled many professions, from that of a soldier to a theatrical manager. In the course of his everchanging career, he played in the Court band of the Elector Palatine at Mannheim, fought against Frederick the Great at Rosbach, directed the theatre at Lubeck, was chapelmaster to the Prince-Bishop of Eutin, and later directed the town band there. In his fifty-second year, while serving in this last capacity, Carl Marie was born of his second wife, who was then eighteen years old. When the child was scarcely a year old his father took up the management of a theatrical troupe and began traveling about with it, and from that time the young Carl Marie may be said to have lived behind the scenes. This was disastrous as far as his education was concerned, but valuable in that it early made him acquainted with human nature, which he so successfully portrayed later in his great works. The family connection with Mozart had made Franz Anton von Weber ambitious to be the father of a genius. The sons by his first marriage had shown only mediocre musical ability, so he looked eagerly for signs of talent in his youngest son. At first they failed to appear. When the boy was ten years old he was given his first valuable musical instruction by Heuschkel, the famous oboist, pianist, organist and composer, and his talent became apparent. He next studied in a training school for chorister boys at Salzburg, and then with Michael Haydn, under whose instruction he progressed rapidly, although he did not at first take kindly to the methodical study imposed upon him. In 1798 his mother died of consumption. Going then to Munich he took lessons from Wallishauser and Kalcher, and under the latter's instruction composed his first opera, The Power of Love and Wine, while still in his twelfth year.