To call one person the single most influential musician of an entire century might be a bit of a stretch. But there may just have been a 19th-century composer who fits that bill.
There are plenty of composers from the 1800's whose names are more familiar than Carl Maria von Weber. Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner are among those that come to mind. But the originality of Weber's music, and the depth of his artistic thought, may well have planted seeds that later sprang up in the works of all of those composers and many more. Listen closely to Weber's opera Euryanthe, for example, and you'll hear hints of the brooding intensity of Schumann and Liszt, the audacity of Berlioz and the surging drama of Wagner.
Weber's greatest single success was probably the 1821 premiere of his opera, Der Freischuetz. It was so well received that within a few months Weber had been commissioned to write another opera. But he wasn't content to repeat the same sort of drama again. Though its music was innovative, Der Freischuetz also incorporated long stretches of spoken dialogue — which was typical of German opera at the time.
With his next opera, Weber wanted to break new ground. So in Euryanthe the spoken dialogue disappeared, replaced by continuous music. Euryanthe wasn't as big a hit as Der Freischuetz, and its plot does have a few holes. Alright, maybe more than a few. (Why, for example, would a guy whose sister committed suicide by poison then conclude that his girlfriend must have cheated on him with another man, simply because the other man knows about the sister's sad fate?) Still, the opera's score is brilliant throughout and, musically, Euryanthe may be Weber's greatest masterpiece.
On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents a concert performance by the renowned Belgian theater company La Monnaie, at the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels, with conductor Kazushi Ono, soprano Gabriele Fontana and tenor Kurt Streit.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.