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Justice to Weber

A great injustice had been done to Weber by the musical historians and critics. Almost unanimously they gave Berlioz credit for innovations that sprang from the genius of Weber. It was Weber's scores that suggested to Berlioz his audacious experiments in orchestration. It was Weber who anticipated Wagner in the artistic use of leading motives long before Berlioz did it. Countless writers have said that the idée fixe in Berlioz's "Fantastic Symphony" is interesting historically as the first instance in music of what Wagner afterwards termed the "Leitmotiv." As a matter of fact, Berlioz, who was an enthusiastic student of Weber's scores, did not write this symphony till eight years after the production of the "Freischütz," in which there are eleven leading motives recurring in thirty-four places.
The revival of "Der Freischütz" (in New York) would have served a useful purpose had it been only to provide an opportunity to do justice to Weber. But it was also a treat in itself quite apart from all historic considerations. There is so much simple and heartfelt melody in this opera that Weber was accused of having helped himself to the treasures of German folksongs; but these airs are his own as thoroughly as Grieg's Norwegian songs are his own. Operatic melody is subject to frequent change in style, but Weber's melodies, like Schubert's, are not affected by time, like the fashionable arias of Rossini and Donizetti. Airs like "Leise, leise," "Durch die Wälder," "Wir winden dir den Jungfernkranz" and a dozen others in this opera affect the hearer as do the "quotations" in a Shakespearean play.—H. T. Finck in the Nation.

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