(iii) Vocal ensembles.
Weber's vocal music also includes a large number of pieces for ensembles of various sizes, both with and without piano accompaniment. Duets, trios and songs with choral refrains occasionally appear in the published song and folksong collections. From his study with Michael Haydn Weber developed a fondness for canons, a number of which he wrote to entertain his musical friends in Mannheim and Berlin. His friendships in Berlin, largely with members of the Sing-Akademie and Liedertafel, also led to a number of pieces for mixed ensemble written as birthday greetings (j131, 133, 135, 165) and to an extended all-male work for Zelter's Liedertafel (j132). Without doubt, Weber's most famous choral pieces were the six songs for a cappella male chorus in the second volume of Leyer und Schwerdt (op.42), concise, homophonic settings of anti-Napoleonic verse by the poet-martyr Theodor Körner. Stemming from his experiences in Berlin in summer 1814, these pieces were the first by Weber to gain widespread acclaim, as they summed up the patriotic fervour of a people newly selfconscious of their nationhood; especially popular was the fiery Lützow's wilde Jagd, which usually had to be encored whenever Weber presented it and which enjoyed international circulation. A later publication of ‘Männerchor’ songs, op.68, made no comparable impact.
Of the many cantata and cantata-like pieces that Weber composed, four have special significance for his career. A major work from his time in Stuttgart is Der erste Ton (1808, revised 1810), based on a poem by Rochlitz about God's creation of sound after he had created the world. For the most part Weber conceived the piece as a spoken declamation accompanied by orchestral music that characterizes the different images in the poem (chaos, creation, order, the sounds of nature etc.); singing voices enter only at the end in a closing choral fugue that Weber revised under Vogler's supervision in 1810. Rochlitz also provided the text for another large-scale work with religious overtones, the hymn In seiner Ordnung schafft der Herr (1812), which also concludes with a fugue. Weber conceived the cantata Kampf und Sieg (1815) in the wake of Waterloo as an expression of the various emotions attending the Hundred Days and as an appeal for continued cooperation among the allied princes, to whom he sent manuscript copies of the full score in the hope that he would receive appropriate recognition or reward. The cantata quotes various melodies to symbolize the participants in the great struggle: an Austrian grenadiers' march, the French song Ah, ça ira, Prussian field trumpet calls, his own Lützow's wilde Jagd, and God Save the King. To prepare for its concluding fugue Weber studied Marpurg, only to reach the conclusion that traditional fugal theory was of little help for the composition of fugue that also spoke to feeling (letter to Gottfried Weber of 16 September 1815). Finally, one of the most important of Weber's occasional pieces for the court in Dresden is the Jubel-Cantate (1818), based on a text by Friedrich Kind to celebrate the 50-year reign of King Friedrich August I. Here Weber eschewed learned counterpoint to evoke in broad and simple strokes the Saxon people's feelings of devotion to their king and thanks to God for having preserved him through illness and war.
(v) Liturgical music.
Although he was a devout Catholic and frequently conducted the liturgical music for the Catholic court in Dresden, Weber's output of sacred music is small, comprising only three settings of the Roman Mass and associated Proper offertories for two of them. The so-called Grosse Jugendmesse, discovered in the 1920s (Schneider, N1926), is one of the few juvenilia to have survived Weber's probable destruction of much of his earliest music. Weber claimed to have written the piece under Kalcher's supervision in Munich, and he assigned the mass to 1799 in his own (admittedly unreliable) work-list; however, an autograph dedication dated 1802 is attached to a score (now at Český Krumlov) prepared by a Salzburg copyist, and the contrapuntal writing that informs the Gloria, the polytextual ‘Pleni sunt … Osanna’ movement and the Agnus Dei seems to point to Michael Haydn's influence (Rosenthal, N1926–7). What is more, unorthodox text setting and formal features raise the possibility that some of the music was based on lost instrumental pieces (Veit, N1993).
Weber composed the two mature masses of his early Dresden years in accordance with tacit expectations that a royal Saxon Kapellmeister would supply liturgical music for the court (Allroggen, N1993), whose exclusive property they became, and calculated these pieces for the liturgy, acoustics and forces of the Hofkirche, which he described to Gänsbacher in letters of 24 December 1818 and 26 December 1822. Despite formal similarities with each other, like the treatment of the Credo as a continuous movement in one tempo, the two masses explore rather strongly contrasted qualities of expression and character. The Mass in E, written for the king's nameday in 1818, is the more festive. Sometimes known as the ‘Freischützmesse’ because of certain affinities with the opera, the Mass also draws on some of Weber's earlier music: the Kyrie and Christe are based, respectively, on the Kyrie of the Jugendmesse and the Trauer-Musik j116 of 1811, and three contrapuntal passages (‘Cum sanctu spiritu’, ‘Et incarnatus est’ and ‘Osanna’) borrow subjects and counterpoint from the early fughettas of op.1. In contrast, the G major Mass, composed for the golden wedding anniversary of the king and queen in 1819, offers a more intimate and pastoral interpretation of the liturgical text, with less emphasis on learned counterpoint and dramatic effects (see Weber's letters of 16 October 1818 and 14 December 1818 to Rochlitz and Friederike Koch, respectively). More obviously than the E Mass, the G major featured the great soloists of the court chapel, with extended solos for tenor (the ‘Qui tollis peccata’ section of the Gloria), soprano (a highly expressive setting of ‘Et incarnatus est’) and alto (the pastorale-like Agnus Dei); the Benedictus, which the Weber scholar F.W. Jähns (A1871) considered the ‘pearl’ of the score, is given to the quartet of soloists. The two florid offertories composed in conjunction with these masses also demonstrate the virtuoso abilities of the castrato Giovanni Sassaroli.
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