Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Overture to Oberon by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

The horn call that opens this overture is sheer magic, and it’s not a coincidence! In the action of Weber’s opera, these three notes are a magic summons to the Elf-King Oberon to rescue the hero, Sir Huon. Huon has been sent on a perilous mission with his chief protection a magic musical instrument.

Weber was among the most imaginative pioneers in the evolution of orchestral color which characterized the Romantic age. In the Overture, the solo horn-call is answered by muted strings, iridescent flutes, and clarinets—all sounds associated with Oberon’s elfin world. A scarcely audible fanfare, as of mysterious, distant trumpets, is marked to be played “as softly as possible.” A tutti crash introduces the fiery Allegro on themes of Huon’s adventures. Rushing violin figures forecast the triumphant escape of the lovers, Huon and his Princess Reiza. The horn-call and elf music return briefly, suggesting Oberon’s intervention. A clarinet sings a love melody from Huon’s first act aria. More quotations from the opera, including a lusty, stamping rhythm associated with the two elves, Puck and Droll, enrich the development. The exciting conclusion is based on the melody from the famous aria in which Reiza exults, “My husband, my husband, we are saved!”