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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Overture, "Der Freischütz" - Weber

Overture, "Der Freischütz"

Carl Maria von Weber

The opera of "Der Freischütz" was composed in 1819-1820, and is specially famous as purely German in subject and treatment. Its music was originally connected by spoken dialogue. The libretto was written by Friedrich Kind, and is based upon a German legend by Apel. Max, the lover of Agatha, daughter of Kuno, can only win her hand by victory in a shooting contest. Caspar, also a lover of Agatha, who has sold himself to the fiend Zamiel for some unerring bullets cast under magic influences, conspires to deliver Max to the fiend instead of himself. Max loses his skill in shooting and having been defeated by Kilian, abandons all hope. While in this despondent mood, Caspar induces him to cast the magic bullets in hope of propitiating Zamiel. Max succeeds well with six of his bullets and fires the seventh at a dove flying past. As he fires, Agatha appears to him as the dove, and he fancies he has killed her, but Zamiel has directed the shot to the heart of Caspar and claims his victim, while Max is rewarded with the hand of Agatha.

An impressive Adagio opening of the overture is followed by a beautiful horn quartet, which does not appear in the opera, and seems to have no connection with it, though some have thought it is intended to signify the happiness of simple woodland life. It is followed by the prelude of the story, the contrast between Zamiel and Caspar, described by tremolos in the strings, weird tones in the clarinet, and drum beats. This closes the Adagio and leads to an Allegro, taken from Max’s scena, closing the first act. Short passage work follows, leading to the episode of the Incantation music in full orchestra, in which the composer reaches the supreme height of wild, weird, and almost supernatural music. A beautiful contrast follows in the clarinet, which takes up the aria sung by Agatha when she meets her lover in the second act. This continues until phrases of the Incantation music break in again. Once more than beautiful Agatha theme is introduced, leading to the free fantasia. It is based upon fragments of the "Incantation" and leads to the third section of the overture, which opens with the first theme, followed by phrases from Max’s aria in the first act. At its conclusion, phrases from the introduction reappear, and a decrescendo leads to the Coda, which begins with an impressive fortissimo chord in full orchestra, followed after a brief transition by a second. A short pause ensues, after which the full orchestra sings a phrase from the superb Agatha aria. The development of the second theme rises to a climax, which closes the overture.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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