WEBER: Overtures (Piano Arrangement) (Alexander Paley/ Brian Zeger) (Naxos: 8.553308)
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Weber's childhood was in a theatrical environment as the family was part of his father's touring theatre company. He had been born in 1786 in Germany and given the names Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber. His education was haphazard as the company toured, but he probably received some music lessons from his elder half-brother. We do know that on the visit to Salzburg, he took lessons from no less than Michael Haydn, and with the help of the Munich court organist, Kalcher, composed an opera at the age of 13. It was sadly destroyed by a fire at Kalcher's home.
How he was able to return to study at length with Michael Haydn is not clear, but at the age of 17 composed an opera that was staged at Augsburg. Later that year he was appointed kapellmeister at the theatre in Breslau. An accidental poisoning with engraving ink led to a period away from the theatre, and he was never to return, but set to work earning a living as a composer, his entry point being two symphonies.
He moved to Stuttgart where he started work on the operas Turandot and Silvana. That was the year 1809, and the following year he started outlining Der Freischütz, eventually staged with some success in Frankfurt in 1810, but in the period that followed, Weber returned to instrumental composing and he toured as a concert pianist.
An appointment as conductor at the Prague opera, found him fighting the management on the question of performing standards, and he left. He soon picked up the position of conductor at the opera in Dresden, but throughout this six year period he had composed little. He was eventually persuaded to return to work on Der Freischütz that was premiered in 1821 to tremendous success.
It was followed by the operas Die drei Pintos, Euryanthe and Oberon, but in 1826 he journeyed to London against his doctor's advice to help stage Oberon - he had never been physically strong since the poisoning - and was suddenly taken ill and died there.
During that short life Weber wrote a large quantity of music, including concertos, symphonies, vocal and instrumental music. However his reputation resided in his series of operas, his acute sense of picturing the scene in the orchestral accompaniment his major attribute. He also wrote in a very diverse style from the comedy of Abu Hassan to the drama of Der Freischütz, with the delicate world of Oberon captured in music of gossamer lightness. They have been transcribed for a diversity of instruments, including brass band, the overtures falling easily into the realm of four pianist's hands. The one item that will be almost totally unknown is the overture, Ròbezahl, an opera that he was preparing when he was struck down by his accidental poisoning. Only three numbers have survived, through from this very attractive overture, Weber had devised some very attractive melody.
In Alexander Paley they have a passionate and brilliant performer, able to meet all the demands without even beginning to tax his virtuosity. Born in Moldovia in 1956, at the age of 16 he won his country's National Music Competition, and after studying at the Moscow Conservatoire, he emigrated to the United States in 1988 where he now enjoys a busy concert career