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Summary Article: Spohr, Ludwig (Louis)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German violinist, composer, and conductor. He travelled throughout Europe as a soloist and leader of orchestras, playing with the London Philharmonic Society in 1820. His music reflects his career as a violinist, including 15 violin concertos, chamber music, and 9 symphonies. He was one of the first conductors to use a baton. Spohr's music was widely performed during the 19th century, and he was particularly popular in Victorian England. Today he is known largely through the 8th violin concerto and a few tuneful chamber works.

He first learnt music from his parents, who were both musical, although his father was a physician. They lived at Seesen in his childhood, and he was afterwards taught by two amateurs, but was sent to school and for further studies at Brunswick. He played a violin concerto of his own at a school concert and at 14 went to Hamburg trying to gain a hearing. He failed, but on his return petitioned the duke for assistance and was sent to Franz Eck for lessons. They went to Russia in 1802, where he met Muzio Clementi and John Field. He performed and composed a great deal at that time, returned to Brunswick in 1803, heard Pierre Rode there, and entered the ducal orchestra. In 1804 he visited Berlin and played there with the 13-year-old Meyerbeer. In 1805 he became leader in the Duke of Gotha's orchestra and married the harpist Dorette Scheidler, with whom he toured widely. After producing his third opera at Hamburg in 1811, he visited Vienna in 1812, becoming leader at the Theater an der Wien and staying there until 1815.

In 1813 and 1814 he wrote two of his most popular pieces, the nonet and octet; after producing Faust in Prague, he travelled in Italy 1816–17 and then became conductor at the Frankfurt opera 1817–19. In 1820 he visited London and Paris for the first time, meeting Luigi Cherubini, Rodolphe Kreutzer, and Giovanni Battista Viotti.

After a visit to Dresden he became court music director at Kassel on 1 January 1822, having been recommended for the post by Weber, who had declined it. He remained there for the rest of his life, but continued to travel. In 1831 he finished writing his Violin School, in 1834 his wife died, and in 1836 he married the pianist Marianne Pfeiffer. In 1839 he revisited England for the performance of Cavalry at the Norwich Festival, and was commissioned to write an English oratorio, The Fall of Babylon, for the next festival in 1842, in which year he conducted Wagner's Flying Dutchman at Kassel. He was not allowed leave to go to England for the oratorio, but went during his summer vacation in 1843, when he appeared before Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and toured England and Wales. During the 1848 revolutions he showed liberal leanings and so annoyed the elector that he was refused leave of absence. Having taken his vacation without leave, he became involved in a long law-suit, which he lost after four years. In 1852 he adapted Faust without recitatives for a production in Italian in London and in 1853 he produced Wagner's Tannhäuser at Kassel. He was pensioned off against his will in 1857.

WorksStage operas Faust (1816, revised 1852), Zemire und Azor (1819), Jessonda (1823), five overtures (including one on Shakespeare's Macbeth).

Orchestral nine symphonies (4. Die Weihe der Töne, 1832, 6. Historic Symphony, 1839, 9. The Seasons, 1850), 15 violin concertos (8. In modo d'una scena cantante, 1816); four clarinet concertos (1812–28).

Chamber 33 string quartets (1807–57), eight string quintets, octet for strings and wind (1814), nonet for ditto (1813); sonatas for violin and harp; harp pieces.


Spohr, Ludwig Nonet

Spohr, Ludwig Septet

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