Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Select Airs

Object: Music Book, Select Airs, for the Piano Forte, arranged from De Webers Celebrated Opera Der Freichutz
Accession #: 2005.0019

Lithography was invented in Germany in 1796 by Bavarian playwright, Alois Senefelder.  Greasy crayon was applied to slabs of limestone and then his scripts printed with rolled on ink.  Crayon marks were retained so well that duplicate copies could be made in unlimited quantities. Lithograph comes from the Latin for stone, litho, and mark, graph. This music book, Select Airs, for the Piano Forte, arranged from De Webers Celebrated Opera Der Freichutz, includes 23 pages of music and a lithograph of Weber’s Opera. Carl Maria von Weber, a German composer, conductor, pianist, and critic lithographed a set of Variations for the Pianoforte himself under the guidance of Senefelder.

Born in Eutin, Holstein and raised in a family of singers, Weber’s father made sure he was given an education which included literature and art. He had several music teachers, met many musicians and composers including Meyebeer. Weber's first opera, composed in 1800 when he was 14, was Die Waldmädchen (The Forest Maiden), parts of which survive. The composer studied under Michael Haydn in Salzburg and later in Munich under singer Johann Evangelist Wallishauser and organist J.N. Kalcher. From 1813-1816, Weber was Director of the Opera in Prague. From 1817 he was director of the opera in Dresden, “working hard to establish a German opera, in response to the Italian opera which had dominated the European music scene since the 18th century.”  Weber’s works influenced the development of the romantic opera in Germany and Der Freichutz was an instant success in Berlin, in 1821, and within a few years was performed in every major opera house in Europe.

It has been said of Der Freischütz, “Weber’s beguiling score is full of rustic energy and vivid evocations of the natural world,” and that, “his study of aesthetics, of German folk tales and his interest in the supernatural were brought to bear on Der Freischütz. Fred Plotkin, a commentator and writer on opera, continues

Der Freischütz, often referred to in English as "The Magic Marksman," draws from German Romanticism’s use of the supernatural as a threatening presence, especially when it emanates from the forests found at the edge of villages. Weber introduced hunter’s horns and adroitly used various instruments in the orchestra to depict these natural and supernatural phenomena, and the chorus is deployed to spooky effect as the sounds of scary spirits. Weber used other instruments, such as the clarinet, to express the emotions and frustrations of young, sentimental love.

Almost 200 years after its debut, the scope of Weber’s opera continues to be enjoyed by audiences around the world. In the United States, the first opera to be performed in 1796 was Gretry’s Sylvain, in New Orleans. Although it is not known for certain that the Randolph family participated in the viewing of operas or similar theatrical productions, they did have an appreciation for music. This can be seen through the harpsichord they owned which was the most expensive item on their inventory of 1810. Music is once again enjoyed at Wilton through the museum’s free summer concert series and other events throughout the year. 

Works Cited

Ives, Colta. "Lithography in the Nineteenth Century". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. 30 May 2013. <> (October 2004) 

Larner, Gerald. “Overture Der Freischütz”. Scottish Chamber Orchestra. 31 May 2014.
Plotkin, Fred. “Overlooked Operas: Weber's Der Freischütz”. WQXR: Operavore. 8 July 2013.
29 May 2014. <!/story/305476-overlooked-operas-der-freischutz/>  

Tommasini, Anthony. “London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus: ‘Der Freischütz’”. New York
Times. New York Times, 21 June 2013. Web. 29 May 2014. <
“Opera in New Orleans”. OperaCreole. 23 June 2014.

“Carl Maria von Weber”. Classic Cat. 5 June 2014. <

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