Carl Maria von Weber
Piano Quartet in B flat Major, Op.8
The musical reputation of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) rests almost entirely on his famous operas Die Freischutz and Oberon and a few other works such as his clarinet concertos. But Weber’s music by and large is unknown to present day players and listeners, which is a pity since it is uniformly well-written, particularly for wind instruments. Chamber music, however, comprises only a very small part of his oeuvre. There are only three works which qualify as chamber music—his Piano Quartet, his Clarinet Quintet and this work for Flute (or Violin), Cello and Piano.
Weber studied with Michael Haydn in Salzburg the Abbe Vogler in Vienna, two of the leading teachers of their day. He pursued a career as a conductor and music director holding posts in Breslau, Prague, Berlin and Dresden.
The Piano Quartet dates from 1809. As such, it must be considered one of the earlier works of this genre. While there were others, truly only Mozart's were of first quality and it seems quite likely that they served as models for the young Weber. The work is unmistakeably classical but here and there we can early Romanticism. It would be no understatement to call the beautiful opening Allegro Mozartean. In fact, from its open bars, one might well conclude that this was a work by Wolfgang. The treatment of the instruments, especially the piano as well as the thematic material is strongly influenced by Mozart. The Adagio ma non troppo begins with soft double stops in the violin. The theme is somewhat heavy and veiled in the ornamentation of the classical era. The third movement is marked Minuetto but it is closer to a scherzo. In the middle section, Weber makes excellent use of the cello. The finale, Presto, once again the ghost of Mozart hovers over the music which is lively and energetic.
This piano quartet is important for historical reasons but can by virtue of the fine writing and thematic material can stand on its own as a work worthy of the concert hall or the stands of amateur players.