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Spohr, Louis
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Louis [Ludwig] Spohr

(Born; Brunswick, 5 April 1784; Died; Kassel, 22 Oct 1859). German composer, violinist and conductor. He gained his first important experience as a chamber musician at the Brunswick court, soon becoming a virtuoso violinist and touring throughout Germany; his playing was influenced particularly by his admiration for Rode. As Konzertmeister in Gotha (1805-12) he took up conducting (with a baton) and had some of his own works performed but was most successful as a touring artist (1807-21) with his wife, the harpist Dorette Scheidler. Operatic conducting posts at Vienna (1813-15) and Frankfurt (1817-19) coincided with significant bursts of composing activity, yielding chamber music and the successful operas Faust (1813) and Zemire und Azor (1819). He settled down as Kapellmeister at Kassel in 1822, where the premières of Jessonda (1823; his greatest operatic success), the oratorio Die letzten Dinge (1826) and the Symphony no.4 (1832) were major achievements; here too he contributed to the cultivation of interest in both Bach and Wagner. A favourite in England, he received international honours and became Generalmusikdirektor at Kassel (1847), but by the 1850s he was an aging, middle-class representative of a rather sober tradition, and after his death his works were largely forgotten.

Spohr's early Romantic origins and his devotion to Mozart largely determined his style, with its careful craftsmanship and adherence to classical forms but also its freely expressive elements (much chromaticism and a fondness for the elegiac). Among his instrumental works (15 violin and ten other concertos, ten symphonies, virtuoso solo works, scores of chamber works, including a series of double quartets), the four clarinet concertos, the string quartets, the Violin Concerto no.8 ('In the form of a vocal scene') and the Octet and Nonet for wind and strings are noteworthy. His operas anticipate Wagner in being through-composed and in their use of leitmotif.

Dramatic music Faust (1813); Zemire und Azor (1819); Jessonda (1823); 7 others; incidental music for 3 plays

Orchestral music 10 syms. (incl. no.6, 'Historical', no.9, 'Seasons'; 1 inc.); 3 ovs.; 15 vn concs.; 4 cl concs.; double concs.; Qt conc. (1845); Other virtuoso solo works

Chamber music Nonet, F, fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, vn, va, vc, db (1813); Octet, E, cl, 2 hn, vn, 2 va, vc, db (1814); 4 double str qts; Septet, fl, cl, hn, bn, vn, vc, pf (1853); Str Sextet, C(1848); 7 str qnts; Pf qnt, D (1845); 36 str qts; virtuoso vn pieces with str trio; str duos; works with pf; 6 sonatas, vn, harp; solo works, incl. Violin-Schule (1831)

Vocal music 4 oratorios incl. Die letzten Dinge (1826); other sacred works; secular choruses, partsongs; over 90 songs
(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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