Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

Weber, Bedřich [Friedrich] Diviš [Dionys]

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Weber, Bedřich [Friedrich] Diviš [Dionys]

(b Velichov, nr Karlovy Vary, 9 Oct 1766; d Prague, 25 Dec 1842). Bohemian composer and teacher. He first had music lessons in his home town with F. Beier. He continued his education at the Gymnasium in nearby Doupov and went to the Klementinum seminary in Prague to study theology, philosophy and law, before turning his attention permanently to music. In 1792 he studied with the Abbé Vogler, and was soon renowned in Prague society as an effective teacher and an excellent pianist. During the late 1790s he gained much local success composing dance and salon pieces for piano and for orchestra; his standing was also enhanced by a number of more substantial works, notably the large patriotic cantata Böhmens Errettung, written for the 1797 birthday celebrations of Emperor Francis II. By 1800 Weber occupied a leading role in Prague musical life. He was involved in the formation of the Verein zur Beförderung der Tonkunst in Böhmen (1810), established with the intention of raising standards of music-making and musical education in Czech lands. This led to the founding of the Prague Conservatory, for which he was invited to compile the statute and to plan the teaching curriculum, and to which he was appointed as the first director in 1811. From 1839 he combined this post with that of director of the Prague Organ School.

Weber had long been regarded as a staid reactionary who, as a leader of the Mozart cult of early 19th-century Prague, had a deleterious influence upon the development of Czech music during this period. He is primarily remembered for his alleged description of the ‘Eroica’ Symphony as ‘an aberration’, apparently reflecting his own intractable aesthetic and his supposed abhorrence of Beethoven's music. However, on the evidence of his own compositions and his conducting activities as conservatory director, he may more accurately be regarded as a gifted artist who had the misfortune to be sandwiched between the conflicting musical styles of two different eras. He did attempt to come to terms with changing idiom and aesthetic; his own compositions, although heavily influenced by Mozart, whom he met during his youth, later showed that he was not unaffected by contemporary musical developments. The thoroughly idiomatic and splendidly lyrical sextets for chromatic french horns, for instance, contain passages evocative of Carl Maria von Weber, even though he was strongly antagonistic of his German namesake during the latter's period as conductor of the Prague opera (1813–16). The eventual broadening of Weber's aesthetic outlook was illustrated by his inclusion of Beethoven works at the Conservatory; in 1839 he presented an all-Beethoven programme, and in 1842 he even directed a performance of the ‘Eroica’, albeit with minor alterations. Weber also showed enthusiasm for Wagner, whom he counselled in music theory in 1832, and in whose honour he conducted Wagner's Symphony in C at the Prague Conservatory.

Weber's contributions to his country's musical culture were substantial and far-reaching. He ensured the establishment and success of the Prague Conservatory, the subsequent training-ground of many important Czech musicians. He collaborated in compiling the first published collection of Czech folksongs (1825). He maintained a strong personal interest in new instrumental developments. His patronage of the chromatic horn ensured its acceptance in Czech lands prior to its use in many other parts of Europe. He developed a pedal tuning device for timpani, the basic principle of which is apparent in today's instrument. Weber also wrote a series of important theory textbooks, which remained influential for some time after his death. His pupils included Ignaz Moscheles and the Czech composers Leopold Měchura and Jan Kalivoda.


(selective list)

Böhmens Errettung, cant., Prague, 12 Feb 1797

König der Genien, op, Prague, 1 June 1800

Kanzuma, Königin von Serandib, oder Der Krieg um Liebe, Spl, c1807, unperf.; ov. perf. Prague, 20 Feb 1842

Other vocal: Hymne an den Frieden, chorus, pf, Prague, 1798; German choruses; many songs and arias, 1v, pf; masses

Orch (most pubd in pf arr.): numerous allemandes, minuets, marches; Variazioni di bravura, pf, orch; Variations, tpt, orch; Variationen für das neu erfundene Klappenhorn, hn, orch, Prague, 1819

Chbr: Variations, rondos for wind band; various qts, 4 hn, incl. Die Jagd, Prague, 1831; 4 sextets, 6 hn, 6 sextets, 6 tbn, Prague, 1838

Pf solo: 3 rondos; 2 variation sets; Romance, Adagio; numerous allemandes, ländler, marches and minuets

Collections: with J. Ritter von Rittersberg, České národní písne/Böhemische Volkslieder [Czech folksongs] (Prague, 1825)


Das Konservatorium der Musik zu Prag (Prague,1817)

Allgemeine theoretisch-praktische Vorschule der Musik (Prague, 1828)

Theoretisch-praktisches Lehrbuch der Harmonie und des Generalbasses, 4 vols. (Prague, 1830–41)

Theoretisch-praktisches Lehrbuch der Tonsetzkunst, 4 vols. (Prague, 1835–43)

Vollständige Theorie der Musik (Prague, 2/1840)

Allgemeine musikalische Zeichenlehre (Prague,1841)

Notenbeispiele zu F.D. Webers Vorschule der Musik (Prague, 1843)



J. Branberger: Konservatoř hudby v Praze [The Prague Conservatory of Music] (Prague, 1911; Ger. trans., 1911)

K. Hůlka: ‘O starši České písni umělé’ [About older Czech art song], Dalibor, xxviii (1906), 300, 311–12

J. Ludvová: Česká hudební teorie (Prague, 1985), 13, 15–16


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