Spohr, Louis (Ludwig)

views updated


Romanticist violinist and composer; b. Brunswick, Germany, April 5, 1784; d. Kassel, Oct. 22, 1859. Born into a musical atmosphere, he became a leading violin virtuoso who was no less gifted as conductor and composer. Although chiefly remembered for his violin and clarinet concertos, he was active in opera, oratorio, art song, and symphony and wrote much interesting chamber music. His expression was conservative in many respects; yet his harmonic audacities anticipated those of liszt and wagner. Despite his hostility to Catholicism (see the diatribes against Gregorian chant and the Church in his autobiography), he composed a Mass for Ten Voices, Op. 54 (1820), after his examination of Thibaut's collection of Renaissance sacred music. In the Mass, which was not intended for liturgical performance, he attempted to combine the techniques of Renaissance polyphony with the harmonic style of mozart's later works. His oratorios The Last Judgment (1826) and Calvary (1835) were extremely popular; and their chromatic harmonies, often excessively sentimental, had a strong influence on the sacred works of mendelssohn and the Victorian composers.

Bibliography: l. spohr, Selbstbiographie, 2 v. (Kassel 186061); Musical Journeys, tr. and ed. h. pleasants, (Norman, Okla. 1961). p. h. lÁng, Music in Western Civilization (New York 1941). Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, ed. n. slonimsky (5th, rev. ed. New York 1958) 154849. j. berrett, in International Dictionary of Opera, ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993). c. brown, Louis Spohr: A Critical Biography (Cambridge 1984). d.m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996). m. weyer in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed. s. sadie (New York 1980). m. wulfhorst, Louis Spohr's Early Chamber Music (17961812), A Contribution to the History of Nineteenth-Century Genres (Ph.D. diss. City University of New York, 1995); "Louis Spohr and the Modern Concept of Performance," Journal of the Conductors' Guild 18 (1997) 6675.

[r. m. longyear]