Louis Spohr

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Spohr self-portrait Spohr-autoportrait.jpg
Spohr self-portrait

Louis Spohr ( [ˈluːi ˈʃpo:ɐ], 5 April 1784 22 October 1859), baptized Ludewig Spohr, [1] later often in the modern German form of the name Ludwig, [2] was a German composer, violinist and conductor. Highly regarded during his lifetime, [3] Spohr composed ten symphonies, ten operas, eighteen violin concerti, four clarinet concerti, four oratorios, and various works for small ensemble, chamber music, and art songs. [4] Spohr was the inventor of both the violin chinrest and the orchestral rehearsal mark. His output occupies a pivotal position between Classicism and Romanticism, [4] but fell into obscurity following his death, when his music was rarely heard. The late 20th century saw a revival of interest in his oeuvre, especially in Europe.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Violin bowed string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths

The violin, sometimes known as a fiddle, is a wooden string instrument in the violin family. Most violins have a hollow wooden body. It is the smallest and highest-pitched instrument in the family in regular use. Smaller violin-type instruments exist, including the violino piccolo and the kit violin, but these are virtually unused. The violin typically has four strings, usually tuned in perfect fifths with notes G3, D4, A4, E5, and is most commonly played by drawing a bow across its strings, though it can also be played by plucking the strings with the fingers (pizzicato) and by striking the strings with the wooden side of the bow.

Conducting Directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

Contents

Life

Spohr was born in Braunschweig in the duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel to Karl Heinrich Spohr and Juliane Ernestine Luise Henke, but in 1786 the family moved to Seesen. [5] Spohr's first musical encouragement came from his parents: his mother was a gifted singer and pianist, and his father played the flute. A violinist named Dufour gave him his earliest violin teaching. The pupil's first attempts at composition date from the early 1790s. Dufour, recognizing the boy's musical talent, persuaded his parents to send him to Brunswick for further instruction.

Braunschweig City and district in Lower Saxony, Germany

Braunschweig, also called Brunswick in English, is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany, north of the Harz mountains at the farthest navigable point of the Oker River which connects it to the North Sea via the Aller and Weser Rivers. In 2016, it had a population of 250,704.

Seesen Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Seesen is a town and municipality in the district of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the northwestern edge of the Harz mountain range, approx. 20 km (12 mi) west of Goslar.

Bust of Spohr Louis Spohr.jpg
Bust of Spohr

The failure of his first concert tour, a badly planned venture to Hamburg in 1799, caused him to ask Duke Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand of Brunswick for financial help. A successful concert at the court impressed the duke so much that he engaged the 15-year-old Spohr as a chamber musician. In 1802, through the good offices of the duke, he became the pupil of Franz Eck and accompanied him on a concert tour which took him as far as Saint Petersburg. Eck, who completely retrained Spohr in violin technique, was a product of the Mannheim school, and Spohr became its most prominent heir. [6] Spohr's first notable compositions, including his Violin Concerto No. 1, date from this time. After his return home, the duke granted him leave to make a concert tour of North Germany. A concert in Leipzig in December 1804 brought the influential music critic Friedrich Rochlitz "to his knees," not only because of Spohr's playing but also because of his compositions. This concert brought the young man overnight fame in the whole German-speaking world.

Saint Petersburg Federal city in the Northwestern federal district, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.

Mannheim school composer group

Mannheim school refers to both the orchestral techniques pioneered by the court orchestra of Mannheim in the latter half of the 18th century and the group of composers of the early classical period, who composed for the orchestra of Mannheim. The father of the school is considered to be the Bohemian composer Johann Stamitz. Besides him, two generations of composers wrote compositions for the orchestra, whose reputation was due to its excellent discipline and the individual skill of its players; the English traveler Charles Burney called it "an army of generals". Their performance style included new dynamic elements, crescendos and diminuendos. Composers of the Mannheim school played an important role in the development of the classical period's genres and of the classical symphony form.

Leipzig Place in Saxony, Germany

Leipzig is the most populous city in the German federal state of Saxony. With a population of 587,857 inhabitants as of 2018, it is Germany's eighth most populous city as well as the second most populous city in the area of former East Germany after (East) Berlin. Together with Halle (Saale), the largest city of the neighbouring state of Saxony-Anhalt, the city forms the polycentric conurbation of Leipzig-Halle. Between the two cities lies Leipzig/Halle International Airport.

In 1805, Spohr obtained a position as concertmaster at the court of Gotha, where he stayed until 1812. There he met the 18-year-old harpist and pianist Dorette Scheidler, daughter of one of the court singers. They were married on 2 February 1806, and lived happily until Dorette's death 28 years later. They performed successfully together as a violin and harp duo (Spohr having composed the Sonata in C minor for violin and harp for her), touring in Italy (1816–1817), England (1820) and Paris (1821), but Dorette later abandoned her harpist's career and concentrated on raising their children.

Gotha Place in Thuringia, Germany

Gotha is the fifth-largest city in Thuringia, Germany, located 20 kilometres west of Erfurt and 25 km east of Eisenach with a population of 44,000. The city is the capital of the district of Gotha and was also a residence of the Ernestine Wettins from 1640 until the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918. The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha originating here spawned many European rulers, including the royal houses of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal and Bulgaria.

Harp class of musical instruments

The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.

In 1808, Spohr practiced with Beethoven at the latter's home, working on the Piano Trio, Op. 70 No. 1, The Ghost. Spohr wrote that the piano was out of tune and that Beethoven's playing was harsh or careless. In 1812, Spohr conducted a concert in the Predigerkirche of the French-occupied Principality of Erfurt to celebrate Napoleon's 43rd birthday. [7] Spohr later worked as conductor at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna (1813–1815), where he continued to be on friendly terms with Beethoven; subsequently he was opera director at Frankfurt (1817–1819) where he was able to stage his own operas — the first of which, Faust , had been rejected in Vienna. Spohr's longest period of employment, from 1822 until his death in Kassel, was as the director of music at the recently succeeded William II, Elector of Hesse's court of Kassel, a position offered him on the suggestion of Carl Maria von Weber. In Kassel on 3 January 1836, he married his second wife, the 29-year-old Marianne Pfeiffer. She survived him by many years, living until 1892.

Ludwig van Beethoven 18th and 19th-century German classical and romantic composer

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in classical music, he remains one of the most recognized and influential musicians of this period, and is considered to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

Opus 70 is a set of two Piano Trios by Ludwig van Beethoven, written for piano, violin, and cello. Both trios were composed during Beethoven's stay at Countess Marie von Erdödy's estate, and both are dedicated to her for her hospitality. They were published in 1809.

Predigerkirche (Erfurt) church building in Altstadt (Erfurt), Germany

Predigerkirche is a Protestant church in Erfurt, Germany. It is a monastic church to the Dominican friary, Predigerkloster, adjacent to the church. Predigerkirche was originally built by the Dominican Order in the 13th century, when the mystic Meister Eckhart was prior here. The church only became a Protestant church after the Reformation. The original building was modified in 1340–50, and the bell tower was built between 1447 and 1488. Around 1806 Predigerkirche was used as a POW camp, which led to damage to the interior and the equipment. Repairs were made around 1826.

In 1851 the elector refused to sign the permit for Spohr's two months' leave of absence, to which he was entitled under his contract, and when the musician departed without the permit, a portion of his salary was deducted. In 1857 he was pensioned off, much against his own wish, and in the winter of the same year he broke his arm, an accident which put an end to his violin playing. Nevertheless he conducted his opera Jessonda at the fiftieth anniversary of the Prague Conservatorium in the following year. In 1859 he died at Kassel.

Jessonda is a grand opera in German by Louis Spohr, written in 1822. The German libretto was written by Eduard Gehe.

Like Haydn, Mozart, and his own slightly older contemporary Hummel, Spohr was an active Freemason. [8] He was also active as a violin instructor and had about 200 pupils throughout his career – many of them becoming famous musicians.[ citation needed ] His notable pupils included violinists Henry Blagrove and Henry Holmes. See: List of music students by teacher: R to S#Louis Spohr .

Works

A composer, Spohr produced more than 150 works with opus numbers, in addition to a number of nearly 140 works without such numbers. He wrote music in all genres. His nine symphonies (a tenth was completed, but withdrawn: Cf. [9] ) show a progress from the classical style of his predecessors to program music: his sixth symphony represents successive styles from "Bach–Handel" to the moderns; his seventh symphony represents the 'sacred and secular in human life' with a double orchestra; and his ninth symphony represents Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons). (The autograph score of the tenth symphony, which bears the complete work, is held by the Staatsbibliothek Berlin. [10] Furthermore the same institution holds a complete set of copied parts. [11] Cf. also [12] ). Between 1803 and 1844 Spohr wrote more violin concertos than any other composer of the time, eighteen in all, including works left unpublished at his death. [13] Some of them are formally unconventional, such as the one-movement Concerto No. 8, which is in the style of an operatic aria, and which is still periodically revived (Jascha Heifetz championed it), most recently in a 2006 recording by Hilary Hahn. There are two double-violin concertos as well. Better known today, however, are the four clarinet concertos, all written for the virtuoso Johann Simon Hermstedt, which have established a secure place in clarinettists' repertoire.

Among Spohr's chamber music is a series of no fewer than 36 string quartets, as well as four double quartets for two string quartets. He also wrote an assortment of other quartets, duos, trios, quintets and sextets, an octet and a nonet, works for solo violin and for solo harp, and works for violin and harp to be played by him and his wife together.

Though obscure today, Spohr's operas Faust (1816), Zemire und Azor (1819) and Jessonda (1823) remained in the popular repertoire through the 19th century and well into the 20th, when Jessonda was banned by the Nazis because it depicted a European hero in love with an Indian princess. Spohr also wrote 105 songs and duets, many of them collected as Deutsche Lieder (German Songs), as well as a mass and other choral works. Most of his operas were little known outside of Germany, but his oratorios, particularly Die letzten Dinge (1825–1826) were greatly admired during the 19th century in England and America. [14] This oratorio was translated by Edward Taylor (1784–1863) and performed as The Last Judgment in 1830 for the first time. During the Victorian era Gilbert and Sullivan mentioned him in act 2 of The Mikado in a song by the title character.

Spohr, with his eighteen violin concertos, won a conspicuous place in the musical literature of the nineteenth century. He endeavored (without any good result) to make the concerto a substantial and superior composition free from the artificial bravura of the time. He achieved a new romantic mode of expression. The weaker sides of Spohr’s violin compositions are observed in his somewhat monotonous rhythmic structures; in his rejection of certain piquant bowing styles, and artificial harmonics; and in the deficiency of contrapuntal textures. [15]

Spohr was a noted violinist, and invented the violin chinrest, about 1820. He was also a significant conductor, being one of the first to use a baton and also inventing rehearsal letters, which are placed periodically throughout a piece of sheet music so that a conductor may save time by asking the orchestra or singers to start playing "from letter C", for example.

In addition to musical works, Spohr is remembered particularly for his Violinschule (The Violin School), a treatise on violin playing which codified many of the latest advances in violin technique, such as the use of spiccato . [16] It became a standard work of instruction. [14] In addition, he wrote an entertaining and informative autobiography, published posthumously in 1860. [9] A museum is devoted to his memory in Kassel.

According to Rey M. Longyear, Spohr's best works were hailed by many of his contemporaries as quintessentially Romantic and inherited by Mendelssohn. [17]

Selected recordings

Opera

Note: WoO = work without opus number (see also: Folker Göthel "Thematisch-Bibliographisches Verzeichnis der Werke von Louis Spohr". Tutzing, 1981).

Notes

  1. Cf. Brown 1984, p. 3.
  2. The name Louis became a colloquial expression for "pimp".
  3. Musical World, xviii, 1843, p. 259
  4. 1 2 Clive Brown. "Spohr, Louis." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 18 May 2012
  5. Anderson, 1994
  6. Weyer 1980, p. 10.
  7. "1806–1814: Erfurt unter französischer Besetzung" [1806–1814: Erfurt under French occupation] (in German). Erfurt Stadtverwaltung [Erfurt city administration]. Retrieved 2 January 2016.Cite web requires |website= (help)
  8. The Harvard Dictionary of Music, edited by Don Michael Randel, 4th ed. (Cambridge, Mass.; London: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2003), s.v. "Freemasonry and Music," pp. 333–334. ISBN   9780674011632.
  9. 1 2 "Louis Spohr's Selbstbiographie", 2 vols., Kassel und Göttingen 1860/61; Vol. II, p. 379. A near-contemporary English translation, of uneven quality but a fascinating read for anybody interested in 19th century musical life, has been re-published by the Travis & Emery Music Bookshop in Charing Cross Road, London
  10. Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv, shelfmark: Mus. ms. autogr. Spohr 11
  11. Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv, shelfmark: Mus. ms. 21014
  12. Bert Hagels, "Spohr's Tenth Symphony", in: Spohr Journal 37 (Winter 2010), pp. 2–5.
  13. Keith Warsop. Liner notes to Spohr:Violin Concertos Nos. 2 & 9. Marco Polo 8.223510
  14. 1 2 Wikisource-logo.svg  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Spohr, Louis"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  15. Swalin 1937, p. 28.
  16. Spohr, 1832
  17. Longyear 1988, p. 64.

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