PLEASE MEET MY COUSIN, KARL MARIA von WEBER:
KARL MARIA von WEBER: THE PIED PIPER OF THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT: MY PAGE:
I bid you good day, my dear guests, and greet you wholeheartedly.
Do sit down with me awhile, and let me tell you a little about my life.
No doubt, you are acquainted with the music of my first cousin’s, Constanze Mozart's, nee Weber's, husband, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
And people who know the both of us do remark on the remarkable physical likeness between myself and my cousin, Constanze.
My cousins, the Weber of Mannheim and Vienna, did reside far from me, and thus I was fated to meet Constanze but once in my lifetime. However, I am happy to say that her dear son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, had a closer personal tie with me, as Providence willed that Franz Xaver should visit me on one of his concert tours and stay with me awhile.
Well, dear guests, we Webers are indeed a large and far-flung family whose calling has been time and again music and the theater.
And my father, Franz Anton Weber, was no exception, my friends.
Ah, my lovely cousin, Constanze, is of an age with my mother, and Franz Xaver but four and one half years my junior—his brother Karl Thomas Mozart being two years my senior.
So we Weber first cousins—Constanze and I—are one generation apart.
I was born in Eutin in the northern region of the Dukedoms of Schleswig and Holstein on December 18, 1786.
At the time of my birth, my father Franz Anton Weber, the younger brother of Constanze’s father, Fridolin, had already passed his fiftieth year. My friends, what a life my father had had—and was still to enjoy: a gypsy life of pure adventure and wanderings throughout the German lands. We are not really gypsies, except in our hearts; I share that quality with my cousin, Franz Xaver Mozart.
Here, I pause to ponder and ask myself: What comes first, the chicken or the egg? If our lives would have been more economically settled and stable, this wanderlust, born of necessity, would have been kaput!
But we musicians would still, I fear—and here I cannot help smiling bemusedly—we would still be ever fated to live life out of suitcase, and I am no exception, my friends. The times of lifelong aristocratic patronage and a secure life in one locale that my esteemed colleague, Josef Haydn, enjoyed at Esterhazy are over; time has marched on.
My cousin, Constanze’s, husband, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, himself in transition between these two worlds, tried bravely to adjust to the new but was caught in the quicksand of the old and submerged. But his great music will live on! Already, Constanze and her second husband, Baron Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, are taking great pains to insure that Mozart’s music will never be forgotten! Nissen is penning the first extensive biography of my cousin by marriage, and Constanze is constantly and tirelessly engaged in sponsoring and promoting Mozart’s music, and seeing that it is published.
Long before my birth, my father served as a public official in the service of the Elector of Cologne. Upon the Elector’s death, my father was dismissed from his post.
Alas, my father was a hopeless spendthrift and squandered the considerable inheritance of his first wife.
Bowed down with grief and unhappiness, his wife’s frail constitution succumbed to disease.
My father thereupon commenced a lifetime of wanderings, serving as violinist in small court orchestras and as impresario to traveling opera companies. He happened to meet and marry my mother, at the time of the nuptials a girl of sixteen. Very soon thereafter, I made my appearance on the scene.
From birth, I suffered from a disease of the hip, which made it impossible to move my legs until well after my fourth year. Owing to this infirmity, I was left with a permanent limp for the remainder of my life.
From birth, owing to the occupation of my father, I was fated for a nomadic life. Though upon reflection, this wandering life and contact with the theater was to later stand me in good stead. For I was by now a child of the theater, practically born with greasepaint upon my face.
I lived and breathed this life of the theater and knew it inside out, upside down, and beneath my epidermis.
My father, of course, had heard of the tremendous success of child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—as my colleague Ludwig van Beethoven’s father likewise did—and both my father and Herr Beethoven’s father endeavored to mold us as well into successful Wunderkinder!
Well, my father did not give up, for at first I exhibited little talent for music, but the constant exposure and training paid off and released my natural, great talent in this chosen and family profession.
I composed my first opera, “Das Waldmaedchen” (“The Forest Girl”), at the tender age of twelve years, and was lucky to have it performed in Freiburg, Chemnitz, and Vienna.
By the by, my father, with his romantic, sensitive, effusive but impractical nature was one of those larger than life people that fascinate women.
His hobby was genealogy, most specifically the heritage of our family, the Webers. He always instinctively knew in his bones that we must be the descendants of an aristocratic, noble family; we had to be.
After searching painstakingly high and low for many, many years, my father finally found a connection: his ancestor Johann Baptist Weber had been ennobled by Ferdinand II in 1622. Father thereafter believed adamantly in our noble lineage and strove to impart his beliefs to us Weber sons. Therefore, we sons attached the preposition “von” to our last name.
At age eleven, I became a pupil of Michael Haydn, younger brother of Josef Haydn, in Salzburg, and later studied with Abbe Vogler in Vienna. During this time, I composed a second comic opera, which my elated father published, some little fugues, and several other compositions.
As a young man, I was employed in a succession of positions, all the while continuing to compose operas and orchestral works. Yes, my nomadic life--working in many towns in the German lands--seemed a mirror and a repeat of my father’s peripatetic existence.
Finally in 1817, I took to wife Caroline Brandt and soon thereafter became a father.
I put many months of hard, devoted work into the creation of my opera “Der Freischutz” (“The Poacher”). My labor of love oozed with the new, modern movement of romanticism—seeking pride in one’s unique national culture, and wedding this regional pride to the influence of romantic German fairytales. “Der Freischutz” was wildly successful throughout the German lands, and I was lauded as the founder of the romantic movement in music.
Many more operas and other compositions followed.
Why, one time when I visited Vienna, my esteemed colleague Ludwig van Beethoven invited me to dine with him—he even cooked dinner for me—and was so friendly, warm, and effusive toward me. Not in the least like his reputation as a hermitic recluse.
My dear friends, do you know what my Achilles’ heal proved to be—my undoing, which signaled my end, which doomed me to an early death in only my fortieth year? Dear friends, it was alas tuberculosis—incurable in my lifetime.
I, as well as countless other predominantly young people, was its victim.
This disease has overshadowed my whole generation, and is poeticized as the epitome of the romantic movement.
Well, I can see their point, after a fashion—pining after a lost love snatched away in the first bloom of youth by this dread malady.
But let me tell you, dear friends—I can think of nothing—but nothing—less romantic in all the world!
This insidious disease claimed me in London in 1826, where I had journeyed to supervise the production of my new opera “Oberon”—in the very same year that my cousins by marriage, Baron Nikolaus von Nissen and Constanze’s sister, Sophie’s, husband, Jakob Haibl, also passed from this world—and they both on the very same day.
As I took leave of my dear wife, Caroline, upon my departure for London, she clasped me to her bosom and, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed, “I have heard your coffin lid shut.”
And so it was, dear friends.
But I leave behind a part of me—my music. Perhaps like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s immortal masterpieces, I pray my music will never die.
A part of us all wants to live forever—to leave behind some concrete gift from the sweat of our brow and feelings of our heart for future generations to enjoy.
"KARL MARIA von WEBER: THE PIED PIPER OF THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT: MY PAGE" is the exclusive property of Marti Burger, and is not to be reprinted without her written permission.
"KARL MARIA von WEBER: THE PIED PIPER OF THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT: MY PAGE"
© Marti Burger 2003-2008