Concerto in F Major, Op. 75 by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

Allegro ma non troppo

Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was born in November (not December as is often mistaken1) of 1786.  His mother, Genovefa Brenner Weber, was the second wife of Franz Anton Weber.  Franz Anton lived by the Bohemian ideals of the time; he became restless when in one place for too long and lived for the arts.  Sadly, he was also a pushy, overbearing stage father.  He had a dream for one of his children to be “the next Mozart Wunderkind.”  Before Carl Maria’s birth, Franz Anton took his two sons, Fritz and Edmund, to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn.2  His wife had just died and it was on this trip, hoping to create a prodigy, that Franz Anton met Carl Maria’s mother.  Though he did get a wife out of the trip, neither of his sons were able to fulfill his dream by becoming the next Mozart.

Carl Maria was sickly all his life.  He had a hip condition that always made him limp and had a weak constitution inherited from his mother.  Franz Anton, disregarding his son’s health, ran a traveling theater troupe and took his six-month old infant on the road.2  The young Carl Maria first learned to play among the painted scenes and props of the theater company.3  The pushy father was still hoping for a musical prodigy; so he had his older son, Fridolin, teach Carl Maria music.  Fridolin didn’t think Franz Anton had his prodigy in the young Carl Maria exclaiming:

Carl, you may become anything else you like, but a musician you never will be!2

Luckily for the pushy father, Carl Maria’s mother became gravely ill in 1796 and was unable to continue her travels with the theater troupe.  A young Carl Maria stayed back with his mother in the city of Hildburghausen and received his first proper musical tutoring from John Peter Heuschkel, an oboist, organist, and orchestral conductor.  Heuschkel took a liking to the sickly child and taught him piano and thorough-bass.  He remarked of his student:

His rambling hands were bound down to the severest precision.  He was made to tread the dry, dusty road of thorough-bass, step by step…many were the tears shed by the poor child on his ungenial and dreary path.  But…sooner than might have been expected, the child himself began to discover the power this severe discipline would place within his grasp.2

Carl Maria enjoyed his lessons and took to music.  In 1797, Franz Anton got his wish; Carl Maria published his first works.  Op. 1 was a set of six fughettas, all very short in length.  Carl Maria dedicated them to his brother Edmund:

as connoisseur, as teacher, and finally as brother, these first fruits of his musical work from your deeply loving brother Karl Marie von Weber in the eleventh year of his age.3

Carl Maria was actually twelve at the time of publication but in true over-bearing parent fashion Franz Anton lied and cut a year off his age to make his son look more like a prodigy.

Carl Maria was more than just a composer and pianist; he was a great critical writer of music and a bit of a rebel in his early life.  Carl Maria was arrested and charged with embezzlement in 1810 (the charges were eventually dropped).  He also was a founding member of the “Harmonischer Verein” secret society.  In 1810 he wanted to hold himself more accountable for his actions and started keeping a diary.4  His son, Baron Max Maria Von Weber, used his diary to write a biography about his father years after his father’s death. It is through this biography that we have many antidotal stories about the popularity of Carl Maria during his lifetime.  He was indeed well respected and a sought after performer.  His wife, Caroline Brandt, was a stabilizing influence in his life and often made suggestions about his compositions.  On Carl Maria’s deathbed he asked Caroline to burn his diary for fear she would read about his pre-marital love affairs.  Luckily for historians Caroline didn’t; she instead preserved it as well as all the papers he had written.5

Concerto in F Major, Op.75 was originally written in 1811.  Carl Maria had traveled to Munich and was asked to put on a concert for the Queen.  The clarinet was Carl Maria’s favorite wind instrument and he composed Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra for the outstanding Bärmann.  Bärmann was the premier clarinetist at the time and had incredible technical facility, which Carl Maria put to good use.  The Concertino was an outstanding success.6  After the concert numerous other instrumentalists asked Carl Maria to write a concerto for them.  Flute players lobbied for a concerto but instead got an article entitled, “A new discovery for perfecting the flute.”5  Thankfully, Carl Maria took interest in Georg Friedrich Brandt, a soloist on bassoon before joining the Munich orchestra, and wrote the Concerto in F Major.  The bassoon concerto was composed from the 14th – 17th November 1811 and the first performance was on 28th December 1811.

Weber revised the Concerto in F in 1822.  Carl Maria was ill and had signed a contract with the music publisher Schlesinger to publish a number of his older pieces.  Carl Maria reworked the concerto by expanding the main orchestral tutti sections of the first movement, adding some dynamic and expression markings to the solo part, and re-scoring a few accompanying string passages.7

Considering the Concerto in F has such an important place in the repertoire for the bassoon, and taking into account there are three different versions of the work dating from the composer’s lifetime (1811 original, 1822 revision, 1823 edition of parts), it is shocking that no accurate edition has been released to date.  The original three versions of the Concerto that are from Weber’s lifetime, one even in his hand, are not used as a source for current editions.  Current editions are actually from an 1865 edition that was heavily and anonymously edited.  Therefore there are a number of note discrepancies and numerous articulation and dynamic markings that are sometimes contradictory to Carl Maria’s versions.  For example, the cadenza in the second movement the original version (1811) appeared as this:

Concerto in F Major, second movement cadenza ca. 18117

Then in the 1822 version Weber added a slur, a gruppetto before the final note and prolongs the last note into the next bar, appearing as:

Concerto in F major, second movement cadenza ca. 18227

Finally in the third version, an edition of parts published in 1823, Carl Maria adds a slur at the astric in the above excerpt; however, when the anonymous editor from 1865 revises the cadenza he adds staccato articulation in two places, a dynamic marking, and a group of triplets.  The resulting version is below.  It is this changed, heavily edited, version that is now considered the standard for the Concerto.7

Concerto in F Major, second movement cadenza, current version8

Carl Maria’s father wanted him to be the next Mozart.  Luckily for bassoonists, he followed Mozart in writing an outstanding bassoon concerto.  The Mozart and Weber concertos are the two most played pieces in the bassoon repertoire.  They are both three movement works with similar forms.  Both have “march like” first movements, slow beautiful second movements that showcase the lyrical bassoon, and end with witty playful rondos.


1.    Weber MM, Simpson JP. Carl Maria von Weber : the life of an artist. New York: Greenwood Press; 1969.

2.    Saunders W, Blom E. Weber. London; New York: J.M. Dent; E.P. Dutton; 1940.

3.    Warrack JH. Carl Maria von Weber. 2d ed. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press; 1976.

4.    Sadie S, Levy M. The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians. 2nd ed. London; New York: Macmillan; Grove; 2001.

5.    Weber CMv, Warrack JH. Writings on music. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press; 1981.

6.    Friese-Greene A. Weber. London: Omnibus; 1993.

7.    Waterhouse W. Weber’s Bassoon Concerto Op. 75: The Manuscript and Printed Sources Compared. Accessed 8 Apr, 2007.

8.    Weber CMv. Concerto, F major, for bassoon and orchestra : Op. 75. Germany: Breitkopf; 1974.

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