German composer. He established the German Romantic school of opera with Der Freischütz/The Marksman (1821) and Euryanthe (1823). He was Kapellmeister (chief conductor) at Breslau in 1804–06, Prague in 1813–16, and Dresden in 1816. He died during a visit to London, where he produced his opera Oberon (1826), written for the Covent Garden Theatre.
Weber was taken about the country in his childhood and received little education, but his father, anxious to make a prodigy of him, taught him all the music he knew. When at last they settled at Salzburg, the ten-year-old Weber became a pupil of Michael Haydn (brother of Joseph). After his mother's death in 1798 he was taken to Vienna and Munich. There he studied under Giovanni Valesi and Johann Kalcher, and at 13 was a good enough pianist to appear at concerts. By 1800 he had written a good deal of youthful music and learned lithography with the Austrian engraver Alois Senefelder; but the wandering life was resumed and he continued his studies with the aid of theory books.
At Augsburg in 1803 his opera Peter Schmoll und seine Nachbarn was produced. In Vienna again in 1803–04, he studied for a time with Georg Vogler, who recommended him for a conductorship at Breslau, where he went in the autumn of 1804. In 1806 he became domestic musician to Duke Eugen of Württemberg, and later became a private secretary to the Duke's younger brother Ludwig. Weber settled at Stuttgart in 1807, but led a rather frivolous life there and incurred the displeasure of the king, his patron's elder brother. In 1810 he was banished from the kingdom on a trumped-up charge and went to Mannheim and later to Darmstadt, where he resumed his studies with Vogler more seriously. His brilliant works for clarinet and orchestra (two concertos and a concertino) date from 1811; the clarinet quintet followed four years later.
After much travelling he secured the conductorship at the German theatre in Prague in 1813. In 1816 he was appointed conductor of the Dresden court opera, where he did much to establish German opera in the face of the strong opposition of Morlacchi and other Italians. In 1817 he married the opera singer Caroline Brandt, and took her to Dresden after a concert tour. In 1821 his most famous opera, Der Freischütz/The Marksman, was produced in Berlin. It was immediately recognized throughout Germany as helping to establish a truly national style. Euryanthe followed in Vienna in 1823, and marked a major development with the way in which spoken dialogue, traditional in German opera, was replaced by continuously composed music. In 1824, Covent Garden commissioned an English opera from him, and he took English lessons to make a success of Oberon. He suffered badly from a severe disease of the throat and felt unfit to visit London, but in order to keep his family from want he took the risk in February 1826, visiting Paris on the way. He arrived in London in March, conducted works of his own at a Philharmonic concert, and produced Oberon in April. Although ill with tuberculosis, he still conducted the following performances and appeared at several concerts. Utterly worn out early in June, he made preparations for a hasty return home but died during the night at the house of his host, George Smart.
In spite of his early death Weber created a body of work that forms an important foundation of 19th-century German Romanticism. Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler were particularly indebted to him.
WorksStage operas Der Freischütz/The Marksman (1821), Euryanthe (1823), Oberon (1826).
Orchestral two symphonies (1807); 22 works for solo instruments and orchestra, including two piano concertos (1810–12), Concertstück for piano and orchestra (1821), concertino for clarinet and orchestra (1811), two concertos for clarinet and one for bassoon (all 1811).
Instrumental quintet for clarinet, two violins, viola and cello (1815), trio for flute, cello, and piano (1819); 27 piano works including four sonatas (1812–22), Aufforderung zum Tanz/Invitation to the Dance.
Weber, Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von