Weber (1786-1826) - Overture: Oberon
“four-square”, even “stodgy” or downright “dull”. These are all criticisms
levelled by some at Carl Maria von Weber, composer of symphonies, concertos,
piano, chamber, church and choral music, in addition to music for the theatre
and seven operas. It is perhaps entirely the fault of performing tradition,
because there's certainly nothing dull about his tunes. If his music
is afforded the same lightness of touch as that of his famous operatic
contemporary, Rossini, the same effervescence emerges. His ingenuity of
orchestration (using only a “standard” orchestra) is confirmed by figures
such as Berlioz, Liszt, Mahler, and even Debussy, who all expressed admiration.
Weber was also an operatic original, earning himself the tag “Father of
German (Romantic) Opera”. His breaking with the almost universal Italian
style, mainly through adopting the contours of German folk tunes, set a
path which was to be followed by Marschner and Lortzing, and would lead
ultimately to Wagner.
to a libretto by Planch‚ (after Wieland), compounded Shakespeare and medieval
legend. It was his last opera, first performed at Covent Garden. A few
weeks later, while still in London, he died, aged only 40 (though, I hasten
to add, this was nothing to do with the première).
tunes, warm colours, and vibrant rhythms might (just about) bring Rossini
to mind, but there any resemblance ends. Weber, far from content with dashing
off a pot-pourri à la rondo, weaves seven or eight themes
into a thoroughly satisfying sonata structure. The slow introduction, a
mysterious forest of horns and strings with skipping woodwind as felicitous
as Mendelssohn's fairies, yields to a sprightly brass theme which must
have impressed Suppé! The “first subject” proper, thrusting, powerfully
rhythmic, and classical, is magically linked to the lyrical themes
of the “second subject” by a brief recall of the introduction. After an
action-packed “development”, the “recapitulation” turns out to be no mere
literal repeat, instead spinning seamlessly into a buoyant coda. Stodgy?
Oh, aye - about as stodgy as a soufflé!
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
for use apply. Details here
Copyright in these notes is retained by the author without whose prior written permission they may not be used, reproduced, or kept in any form of data storage system. Permission for use will generally be granted on application, free of charge subject to the conditions that (a) the author is duly credited, and (b) a donation is made to a charity of the author's choice.