Our music for this week is the “Ruler of the Spirits Overture” by little-known Romantic composer Carl Maria von Weber. This overture was originally intended for an opera that Weber never ended up publishing. You can hear the dramatic elements from the very first note.
Weber is not a composer that we hear about very often, but he was an amazing person. He exemplified the ideal of a Renaissance man, pursuing composing, conducting, writing, painting, and poetry. He is best known for his opera Der Freischutz, which is seen as one of the most important expressions of Germany’s musical heritage.
Weber was born into a musical family that traveled the European countryside as a performing troupe. He was appointed as a lead musician in the court of King Frederick I of Württemberg, but his carefree upbringing had instilled in him a restlessness and resistance to structure that quickly got him banished from that court. He resumed his gypsy lifestyle and rose to fame as a piano virtuoso before being appointed conductor of the opera in Prague in 1813. He seemed to have learned his lesson by this point, for he managed to hold this job for many successful years.
We can thank Weber for the opera genre, since before he came along, the opera was scorned in most European countries (except, of course, Italy). Weber’s brave introduction of the opera format into German musical circles is one of the primary reasons that we can enjoy great operas today.