Weber, Carl Maria Von. (1786-1826)

Autograph Letter to Schlesinger about his Horn Concertino and Other Works

Partial autograph letter signed ink, "v Weber", Dresden, March 19, 1818, with postal cover on reverse to the Berlin music publisher A[dolf] M. Schlesinger. Although the letter evidently lacks the upper lines, there is much extant material, including approximately 38 lines with signature at the conclusion, and the content relates to several of Weber's major compositions, including the Missa Sancta no. 1 (which had just been premiered in Dresden), Der Freischütz, and his Horn Concertino. Large fragment with loss at head; fold separations with mends on back (appears to be archival); small tear to one edge. Overall good. 8 x 9.25 inches (20.2 x 23.5 cm). Together with a vintage postcard portrait of the composer.

Weber writes to Schlesinger that he is "still very much in your debt" and mentions "the composition of a large Mass which occupies me day and night... and was performed yesterday in the Hofkirche with great success. [...] Your letter of 28.8.17 reached me on the 3rd of September in Prague, and hence I did not give the Arias to Herr Peters." He mentions his friend Gottfried Weber and goes on to complain about a "very sad" situation. Later, Weber reports that his opera [Der Freischutz] has been "very much delayed" because of the composition of another piece, and that "Herr Kapellmeister [...] will let you listen to the singing rehearsals." Going on, Weber mentions his recently-composed Horn Concertino: "What you wrote to me about the Concertino is somewhat unintelligible. If one can do everything on the newly-invented horn, then that [...] should become easy, and not need to be changed. [...] Poems by Goethe and Schiller are too often and excellently set for me to wish to try it again. A volume of etudes, a volume of folk songs, and a [...] Rondo will be the next things finished." He also goes on to mention a trio, a work for piano four hands, and the overture to Georg Joseph Vogler's opera Samori. At the close of the letter, he mentions that "the edition of the Musik-Zeitung is very good" and that he will write something "when I have the time and opportunity."

1818 saw Weber in a very busy period, having just taken over as director of the Opera in Dresden. His Missa Sancta no. 1 was composed for the name-day of King Friedrich August I of Saxony in 1818. Weber had had no previous experience with liturgical music, but the mass was a great success: the king gave him a diamond ring in thanks. His work on Der Freischütz began in 1817, but was delayed because of the many other demands on Weber's time, only resuming in 1819. 

The Horn Concertino mentioned in the present letter had been composed in 1806 for the Karlsruhe horn player Dautrevaux, and revised for the Munich virtuoso Rauch in 1815. The work is known for its extreme technical challenges (including multiphonics which require playing overtones while also humming), and was originally composed for natural horn—the only horn at the time. However, in 1818, soon before the present letter, the first valved horn was patented by makers Heinrich Stölzel and Friedrich Blümel. While the valves did make the instrument much easier in many ways, allowing the use of many more keys, Weber's concertino remains extremely difficult even for modern horn players. (12046)

Autograph Letter
Classical Music