Weber spent most of the year 1810 in Darmstadt, where he again met Vogler and Meyerbeer. Vogler’s severe artistic instructions were of great value to Weber in curbing his extravagance, and impressing on him that restraint was one of the most valuable factors in art. What Vogler thought of Weber we learn from a letter in which he writes: “Had I been forced to leave the world before I found these two, Weber and Meyerbeer, I should have died a miserable man.”
It was about this time, while visiting Mannheim, that the idea of “Der Freischutz” first entered his mind. His friend the poet Kind was with him, and they were ransacking an old book, Apel’s “Ghost Stories.” One of these dealt with the ancient legend of the hunter Bartusch, a woodland myth ranking high in German folk-lore. They were both delighted with the fantastic and striking story, full of the warm coloring of Nature, and the balmy atmosphere of the forest and mountain. They immediately arranged the framework of the libretto, afterward written by Kind, and set to such weird and enchanting music by Weber.
In 1811 Weber began to give concerts, for his reputation was becoming known far and wide as a brilliant composer and virtuoso. For two years he played a round of concerts in Munich, Leipsic, Gotha, Weimar, Berlin, and other places. He was everywhere warmly welcomed. Lichten-stein, in his “Memoir of Weber,” writes of his Berlin reception: “Young artists fell on their knees before him; others embraced him wherever they could get at him. All crowded around him, till his head was crowned, not with a chaplet of flowers, but a circlet of happy faces.” The devotion of his friends, his happy family relations, the success of his published works, conspired to make Weber cheerful and joyous beyond his wont, for he was naturally of a melancholy and serious turn, disposed to look at life from its tragic side.
In 1813 he was called to Prague to direct the music of the German opera in that Bohemian capital. The Bohemians had always been a highly musical race, and their chief city is associated in the minds of the students of music as the place where many of the great operas were first presented to the public. Mozart loved Prague, for he found in its people the audiences who appreciated and honored him the most. Its traditions were honored in their treatment of Weber, for his three years there were among the happiest of his life.
Our composer wrote his opera of “Der Freischuetz” in Dresden. It was first produced in the opera-house of that classic city, but it was not till 1821, when it was performed in Berlin, that its greatness was recognized. Weber can best tell the story of its reception himself. In his letter to his co-author, Kind, he writes: