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ClassicsOnline Home » WEBER, C.M. von: Concertino for Solo Oboe and Winds (Fiala, Western Kentucky University Wind Ensemble, Schallert)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826)
Concertino for Oboe and Wind
The rise of the large-scale ‘romantic’ orchestras of the nineteenth century created a genre that would become a favourite for years to come: the virtuoso concerto. Thanks to a late development of mechanism and some descriptive comments by Hector Berlioz in his Traité d’Instrumentation et d’Orchestration (1856), that left it labelled the mouthpiece of “candour, artless grace, soft joy, or the grief of a fragile being”, the oboe was largely left out of the romantic revolution as a concerto soloist. Recent music scholarship, however, has uncovered a treasure of writing from the nineteenth century for oboe and orchestra, primarily in forms of opera fantasy and concertino. The work, Concertino for Oboe and Wind Instruments by Carl Maria von Weber is a charming example of the creative way composers found to bring the oboe out and in front of the romantic orchestra.
Carl Maria von Weber was born in December 1786 to parents who could be called wandering minstrels. Weber’s father had tried in vain to produce a Wunderkind such as Mozart out of his two older brothers; he renewed this interest when his youngest son, Carl Maria, was around ten years old. After studying counterpoint and piano for several years, Weber was able to secure employment as a Kapellmeister in Breslau in 1804 at the age of seventeen under the tutelage of Abbé Georg Joseph Vogler, who remained a supportive mentor most of his life. Weber found success late in life as a Kapellmeister in Dresden, and like Mozart, died very young owing to poor health at the age of forty.
Some controversy surrounds the Concertino for Oboe and Wind. It was discovered in the early 1970s in a stack of manuscripts in the library of Prince Carl von Lowenstein-Wertheim, a friend and supporter of Weber. A manuscript of the piece was first published in 1980 by Musica Rara. Although all of the music in the stack surrounding the piece was written and signed by C.M. von Weber, this piece only had his name written on it, in a hand other than Weber's. It is thought by some that the piece is too simplistic in its writing to be Weber, yet the orchestration of the accompaniment for one flute, two clarinets in C, two clarinets in B flat, two bassoons, two horns, a trumpet, a trombone and a double bass, directly reflects the instrumentation Weber was using for a number of Harmoniemusik groups, a favourite of the Prince. Prince Carl was an amateur oboist, and the piece could very likely have been written for him to perform with the wind-players employed at his court in about 1805. There is also a reference in Weber’s diary, “November 10, 1811: This evening I orchestrated an adagio for Flad.” Anton Flad was the principal oboist in the Munich Orchestra at that time. It could be he was re-working the very piece he wrote for Prince Carl, or perhaps there is still another work by Weber for oboe to be discovered.
The concertino form was a new format being explored in the nineteenth century. With no real standardisation, the concertino could be found in one, two, or even three movements. Weber’s Oboe Concertino is in two movements, played continuously but for a brief Eingänge (short non-modulating cadenza) that leads from movement one, an aria-like Adagio, to movement two, a light, upbeat Polacca.
Lauren Baker Murray
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WEBER, C.M. von: Concertino for Solo Oboe and Wind...