Composer. He wrote the first important German Romantic opera, "Der Freischutz" ("The Free-Shooter", 1821). The plot, taken from an old folk tale, concerns a hunter who makes a pact with the devil for magic bullets that never miss their targets. Thoroughly German in sound and setting, it challenged the Italian style (epitomized by Rossini) that dominated European opera at the time. "Der Freischutz" was also one of the earliest music dramas to employ leitmotivs (recurring musical themes), a technique subsequently developed by Richard Wagner and his followers. Weber's other major operas were "Euryanthe" (1823) and "Oberon" (1826), though only their overtures are still heard today. His most popular instrumental work, the "Invitation to the Dance" (1819) for piano, is more often performed in an orchestral transcription by Berlioz. Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was born in Eutin, Holstein, Germany, and studied music with Michael Haydn and Abbe Vogler. He first won fame as a pianist and wrote two piano concertos (1810, 1812) and the "Konzertstuck in F" (1821) for his own performance. From 1813 to 1816 he was director of the Prague Opera and he was appointed director of the Dresden Opera in 1817. As a conductor Weber helped pioneer the use of a baton to lead the orchestra, replacing the Classical method of conducting from the piano or Concertmaster's desk. His advocacy of a German brand of opera, along with his headstrong personality, met with fierce opposition from defenders of the Italian tradition in his country. Even after "Der Freischutz" enjoyed an unprecedented success in Berlin he had to struggle to get his stage works played, and the experiences undermined his health. In 1826 Weber traveled to London to supervise the Covent Garden production of "Oberon", despite the fact that he was gravely ill with tuberculosis. He died soon after the premiere and was interred in the chapel of London's principal Catholic church, St. Mary Moorfields. Weber's nationalist aspirations profoundly influenced future German composers. In 1844 Richard Wagner, one of Weber's successors as head of the Dresden Opera, arranged to have the composer's remains brought back to the city and buried in a grave of honor. Wagner noted in his eulogy that as a youth he had "learned to love music by way of my admiration for Weber's genius".
Bio by: Bobb Edwards