Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weber - Symphony No. 1 In C Major

Carl Maria von Weber is more well known for being a composer of operas, but he did indeed write two symphonies.  The first symphony was written in 1806-1807, shortly after the premiere of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, 'Eroica'. Beethoven set the symphonic world upside down with the Eroica, and his 4th Symphony followed close behind.  The two symphonies of Weber, while interesting and tuneful, were written rather true to form in the classical style. They were overshadowed in the beginning by the developments of Beethoven and were pretty much neglected until their revival in the 20th century.

Weber had just begun a visit to the music-loving Duke of Württemberg-Öls, whose palace was in a forest and boasted a small orchestra that the Duke liked to play the oboe in. Weber wrote both of his symphonies for this small orchestra which consisted of one flute, two oboes,  two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings, with no clarinets.

The first movement is in sonata form, and shows how much Weber already understood the orchestra. His gift for melody shines throughout the movement. But it is with the second movement Andante that shows Weber's flair for the dramatic, even when writing for instruments alone. It is a short movement (as all the movements of the symphony are, the entire symphony takes only about 25 minutes) but it has a darkness of instrumental color that makes it the most unique movement in the symphony. The third movement is a Scherzo with a prominent oboe part. The finale is a high-spirited movement in sonata form that brings the symphony to a rousing finish.

Weber's first symphony is not the best music he ever wrote. Weber himself acknowledged as much in a letter to a friend when he expressed how he could have worked things out better in the symphony. But it is still a very enjoyable piece of music and has flashes of the talent that was to make Weber one of the founders of the Romantic movement in music.


  1. May I say wow! I stumled upon this by accident and it's just a wonderful symphony, making everything around so much more beautiful. I'm totally falling in love with classical music. Please, could you help me with other similar pieces? It's shocking to me you call this not his best music, what is? And do you have any recommendations for me to start with? Should I look for other Symphonies in C major? Other pieces of the Romantic movement? There should be a starter's guid into classical music for dummies somewhere :) Thanks!

  2. Greetings!
    There is a book titled 'Classical Music For Dummies' and it comes with a CD of classical music. There are also many sites online. Scroll down on my blog and take a look at my 'Links And Things' where you can find some of them.
    Happy listening!