|John Hayter: Carl Maria von Weber (1826)|| |
Carl Maria von Weber arrived in London on 5 March 1826, after four days travel from Paris. He had been commissioned to compose a new opera, Oberon, for Covent Garden, but was already seriously ill with the consumption that would kill him a few months later. Despite this he immediately threw himself into a demanding series of rehearsals and concerts. He was impressed with the opera house, the main soloists and the Covent Garden chorus, less so with the orchestra. The first event, shown in this lithograph, was a concert of selections from Der Freischütz, on 8 March.
Weber was one of the first specialist conductors. Most orchestral performances were led by one of the players - a pianist or the leader of the orchestra (or, as in the case of the London Philharmonic Society concerts, both) - but Weber abandoned the keyboard and stood with a roll of manuscript paper as a primitive baton. This lithograph gives a glimpse of his technique at his first London concert. There seems to be some conversation in the audience, but also a serious approach, with the ladies apparently following the music from cumbersome folio editions. The widespread introduction of more convenient miniature scores had to wait until the 1880s and 1890s.
The Centre for Performance History's copy of this lithograph by John Hayter (1800-95[?]) is a proof copy. The process of lithography had been invented by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834) in the mid 1790s and Weber and his father, who had met him in Munich in 1799, became interested in the process. Carl Maria was an apprentice to Senefelder, and he and his father briefly set up as lithographers in Freiberg, until 'the extensiveness and the mechanical, soul-destroying nature of the business' convinced the younger Weber to return to composition.
John Hayter: Carl Maria von Weber at Covent Garden Theatre leading his celebrated opera of Der Freischütz
(London: J. Dickinson, 1826)
Lithograph, printed by G. Hullmandel
Alois Senefelder, A Complete Course of Lithography, with an introduction by A. Hyatt Mayor (New York: Da Capo Press, 1977) [A reprint of the original English edition of 1819].
Michael Twyman, Early Lithographed Music (London: Farrand Press, 1996).
John Warrack, Carl Maria von Weber (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1968).