Lot 140: Rare Autograph Letter by Carl Maria von Weber mentioning Patron and Compositions
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Rare Autograph Letter Signed by Carl Maria von Weber mentioning His Patron and Several Compositions: “I am working hard and loving it” ********** WEBER, CARL MARIA VON. (1786-1826). German Romantic composer of such works as Der Freischutz, Euryanthe and Oberon. ALS. (“C. MvWeber”). 1p. 4to. Gotha, September 23, 1812. To organist, violinist and Leipzig music publisher AMBROSIUS KUEHNEL (1770?-1813). In German with translation. ********** “My dearest Friend, I have the honor of sending you here, as agreed upon, the Overture in D Minor, the Concertino and the Variations. Asking you to dress them up nicely would be a superfluous request knowing how tasteful your publications are. I would like to ask you to tackle the Variations as soon as you can, as I intend to present them as a small surprise to my dear student Frau von Wiebeking in Munich. My stay here is so quiet and free of distraction, just as a composer needs it to be, to recover from stumbling from one social whirlwind into the next for seven months in Berlin. I am working hard and loving it. The Duke is very gracious toward me and he is the only person who, every now and then, takes an evening away from me. Prince Frederick, in whose palace I am staying, is not back from Spa yet, but he is expected to return in 8 days. Your cantor Schade will be giving two big concerts in 8 or 10 days in which Spohr, Hermstedt and yours truly [will perform]. Romberg’s Glocke [“Bell”] and Schicht’s 84th Psalm will also be performed later. I am looking forward to the latter and want to do my very best to contribute to its good execution. The Glocke has rung for me so often that I have quite enough of it. Now I have exhausted all the news there is to tell and I close as your old, i.e., I call myself with love and respect, your dear friend… [P.S.] If you see something in the titles you think should be changed, I happily leave it up to you. 1000 greetings to Councilor Rochlitz and all acquaintances. [P.S. at top of the page:] I just noticed that the notation of the theme of the Variations is poorly written. I hope your engraver can make sense of it. I arranged it so it can be either sung or played.” ********** Weber was the son of a violinist and music director who fostered great ambitions for his child’s musical career. Mozart was a cousin by marriage, and the young Weber studied with Joseph Haydn’s brother and began publishing his own compositions from the age of 12. Following the success of his opera Peter Schmoll and his Neighbors in 1803, Weber became director of the Breslau Opera. In 1807, frustrated with the experience, he took a break from music and worked as private secretary to Duke Ludwig, the brother of King Frederick I of Württemberg. The position came to an abrupt and ignominious end when Weber, deeply in debt, and his father were arrested for embezzlement. After a trial, and despite Carl’s innocence, he was banished from Württemberg and, thereafter, wandered for several years throughout Germany, living for a time in Berlin with the parents of composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. ********** In September 1812, he accepted a long-standing invitation from the eccentric writer and aristocrat Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1772-1830). After a warm welcome following Weber’s arrival in Gotha, Weber was given lavish accommodations and his debts were paid off. However, in “spite of the amiable friendliness of the Duke of Gotha and his wife, a princess of Hesse Homburg, Weber’s intercourse with this potentate was not of a nature to be congenial to an artistic spirit conscious of its own settled purpose, and desirous of pursuing its own vital ends and aims. He felt like a noble steed, who has an unsteady rider on his back, now pulling him to the right, now to the left, now urging him on, now checking his career, always fatiguing and distressing him. Genial as was the Duke, his eccentricity was so uncertain, his flow of ideas so variable, and his sudden impulses so ill-regulated, that it was almost impossible to follow him in all his wondrous changes of spirit and thought. His daily doings resembled the style of his own poems and works of fiction, in which the richness of thought was never fully developed… Weber, and frequently even the reluctant [German composer, violinist and conductor Ludwig] Spohr [1784-1859, then Gotha’s court concertmaster] were obliged to travel with the Duke from one place of residence to another at a moment’s warning and on any caprice, there to accompany his poems with melodramatic music … During the entire month at Gotha, instead of enjoying the relaxation, he had fondly hoped to find, when he accepted the Duke’s invitation, he experienced only prostration of mind and body,” (Carl Maria Von Weber: The Life of an Artist, Weber and Palgrave). Nonetheless, the duke was a generous and appreciative patron, sometimes moved to tears by Weber’s music, and it was to him that Weber dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 2. ********** Our letter mentions the duke’s younger brother Prince Frederick IV (1774-1825) who inherited his brother’s duchy upon his death. “With Prince Friedrich, the intercourse of Weber’s daily life was wholly different, but scarcely less worrying. The Prince, who was a devoted admirer of Italian music and a good singer himself, was never weary of going through the scores of Italian opera… On such occasions Weber was obliged to sit half the day at the piano,” (ibid.). Frederick, who had been badly wounded during the Napoleonic wars, spent much of his time seeking cures for his ailments; his trip to Spa is referred to in our letter. Like his brother, he died without an heir and was the last of the Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg line. ********** “During Weber’s sojourn in Gotha, he had few opportunities of displaying his remarkable talents in public. The two best occasions were afforded by two concerts given in the Margaret Church in Gotha, on the 29th and 30th of September [likely the concert about which Weber is writing]. At each, however, an untoward accident disturbed the pleasure and harmony of the performance. During the first, the new strings of the instrument on which Spohr’s wife, Dorette, the most celebrated harpist of her time, was playing a sonata for harp and violin with her husband, gave way – a pedal stuck –and the lady was so upset, that her piece could not come to its conclusion. During the second, Weber found the piano on which he was to play his own variations on the air in Mehul’s ‘Joseph,’ [the publication of which is the subject of our letter] so completely out of tune that play, patience, temper, all, fell into marvelous discord,” (Carl Maria Von Weber: The Life of an Artist, Weber and Palgrave). ********** Weber’s Variations on a Theme from ‘Joseph’ by Mehul, Op. 28, were written during his September stay at Gotha and “represent Weber’s masterpiece in the genre,” (Nineteenth-century Piano Music, Todd). Franziska “Fanny” von Wiebeking (?-1819) studied piano with Weber in 1811 and was the dedicatee of the Variations. ********** Our letter also discusses the publication of his Overture, “Der Beherrscher der Geister” (“Ruler of the Spirits”), Op. 27 and Concertino for Clarinet, both composed in 1811. Weber is especially remembered for his contribution to the clarinet repertoire. Mentioned in our letter is famed German clarinetist Johann Simon Hermstedt (1778-1846), for whom Spohr composed numerous works. ********** Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1769-1842) was a German music critic, musicologist, critic, and dramatist with whom both Weber and Spohr maintained a friendship. He is the dedicatee of Weber’s Piano Sonata No 4 in E minor. ********** Andreas Jakobus Romberg (1767-1821) was a violinist and composer of Das Lied von der Glocke, Op. 25. In 1815, he succeeded Spohr as director of the court orchestra in Gotha. ********** Our letter also mentions musician, cantor and composer Johann Gottfried Schade (1756-1828) and composer, conductor and cantor Johann Gottfried Schicht (1753-1823). ********** Published in the Carl Maria von Weber Gesamtausgabe (http://www.weber-gesamtausgabe.de/en/A002068/Correspondence/A040528.html). Folded with an irregular left edge and paper loss in the upper margin resulting from a red wax seal, still extant. Lightly foxed. Docketed on the integral address leaf. In very good condition. Good content letters by Weber are uncommon.