Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/671

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SPOHR.

Returned to Germany, in 1817 he visited Holland, and then accepted the post of conductor of the opera at Frankfort-on-the-Main. Here, in 1818, his opera 'Faust' was first produced. It was quickly succeeded by ' Zemire and Azor,' which, though hardly equal to ' Faust,' gained at the time even greater popularity. Owing again to differences with the manager he left Frankfort, after a stay of scarcely two years. In 1820 he accepted an invitation from the Phil- harmonic Society in London, and paid his first visit to England. He appeared at the opening concert of the season (March 6), and played with great success his Concerto No. 8, 'Nello Stilo drammatico.' At the second concert he led his Solo Quartet in E. At the next he would naturally have been at the head of the violins to lead the band, while Ries, according to the then prevailing fashion, presided at the piano. But, after having overcome the opposition of some of the directors, Spohr succeeded in introducing the conductor's stick for the first time into a Phil- harmonic concert. It was on this occasion that he conducted his MS. Symphony in D minor, a fine work, which he had composed during his stay in London, and which fully deserved the enthusiastic reception it received by the public and the press, though now too seldom heard. 1 At the last concert of the season another Sym- phony of his was played for the first time in England, as well as his Nonetto for strings and wind (op. 31). Spohr was delighted with the excellent performance of the Philharmonic Or- chestra, especially the stringed instruments. He tells us that, finding how good the strings were, he had given them special opportunities for display in the D minor Symphony, and also that he had never since heard the work so splendidly performed. 3 Altogether his sojourn in London was both artistically and financially a great suc- cess. At his farewell concert, his wife made her last appearance as a harp-player, and was warmly applauded. Soon after she was obliged, on ac- count of ill-health, to give up the harp. In its place she took up pianoforte-playing, and would occasionally play in concerts with her husband, who wrote a number of pianoforte and violin duets especially for her. She died in 1834.

On his journey home, Spohr visited Paris for the first time. Here he made the personal ac- quaintance of Kreutzer, Viotti, Habeneck, Cherubini, and other eminent musicians, and was received by them with great cordiality and es- teem. His success at a concert which he gave at the Opera was complete, although his quiet, un- pretentious style was not and could not be as much to the taste of the French as it was to that of the German and English public. Cherubini appears to have felt a special interest in Spohr's compositions, and the latter takes special pride in relating how the great Italian made him play a quartet of his three times over. Returned to Germany, Spohr settled at Dresden, where Weber

1 It was a special favourite with Sterndale Bennett, who was nerer tired of bumming Its spirited and melodious subjects.

2 Selbstbiogr. 11. 89.

��SPOHR.

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��was just then engaged in bringing out hia Freischiitz.' This opera had already roused an unprecedented enthusiasm in Berlin and Vienna. But Spohr was no more able to appreciate the genius of Weber, than that of Beethoven. It is an interesting fact, that shortly before this, without knowing of Weber's opera, he had had the intention of setting a libretto founded on the identical story of Freischiitz. As soon however as he heard that Weber treated the subject, he gave it up. During Spohr's stay at Dresden, Weber received an offer of the post of Hof kapell- meister to the Elector of Hessen-Cassel ; but being unwilling to leave Dresden, he declined, at the same time strongly recommending Spohr, who soon after was offered the appointment for life under the most favourable conditions. On New-year's day, 1822, he entered on his duties at Cassel, where he remained for the rest of his life. He had no difficulty in gaining at once the respect and obedience of band and singers, and soon succeeded in procuring a more than local reputation for their performances. Meanwhile he had finished his * Jessonda,' which soon made the round of all the opera- houses in Germany, with great and well-deserved success. It must be regarded as the culmin- ating point of Spohr's activity as a composer. At Leipzig and Berlin, where he himself con- ducted the first performances, it was received with an enthusiasm little inferior to that roused a few years before by the ' Freischiitz.' In the winter of 1824 he passed some time in Berlin, and renewed and cemented the friend- ship with Felix Mendelssohn and the members of his family, which had been begun when they visited him at Cassel in 1822. In 1826 he conducted the Rhenish Festival at Diisseldorf, when his oratorio ' The Last Judgment ' (Die letzten Dinge) was performed for the first time. It pleased so much that it was repeated a few days later in aid of the Greek Insurgents. His next great work was the opera 'Pietro von Albano,' which however, like his next operas, 'Der Berggeist' and 'Der Alchymist,' had but a temporary success. In 1831 he fin- ished his great Violin-School, which has ever since its publication maintained the place of a standard work, and which contains, both in text and exercises, a vast amount of extremely in- teresting and useful material. At the same time, it cannot be denied that it reflects somewhat exclusively Spohr's peculiar style of playing, and is therefore of especial value for the study of his own violin-compositions. It is also true that its elementary part is of less practical value from the fact that the author himself had never taught beginners, and so had no personal experience in that respect.

The political disturbances of 1832 caused a prolonged interruption of the op era- performances at Cassel. Spohr, incensed by the petty despotism of the Elector, proved himself at this time, and still more during the revolutionary period of 1848 and 1849, a strong Radical, incurring there- by his employer's displeasure, and causing him

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