Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/672

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660

��SPOHR.

��innumerable annoyances. However he made good use of the interruption to his official duties, by writing his great Symphony ' Die Weihe der Tone' (The Consecration of Sound, no. 4, op. 86), which was produced at Cassel in 1832. During the next year, which was saddened by the death of his wife, he composed the oratorio

  • Des Holland's letzte Stunden' (Calvary), on a

libretto which Rochlitz had offered to Mendels- sohn, but which the latter, being then engaged on 'St. Paul/ had declined. Spohr's oratorio was first performed at Cassel on Good Friday, 1835. In 1839 h e P a id his second visit to Eng- land, where meanwhile his music had attained great popularity. He had received an invitation to produce his ' Calvary ' at the Norwich Festi- val, and in spite of the opposition offered to the work by some of the clergy on account of its libretto, his reception appears to have sur- passed in enthusiasm anything he had before experienced. It was a real success, and Spohr for the rest of his life refers to it as the greatest of his triumphs. Soon after his return to Cas- sel he received from Professor Edward Taylor the libretto of another oratorio, 'The Fall of Babylon,' with a request that he would compose it for the Norwich Festival of 1842. In 1840 he conducted the Festival at Aix-la-Chapelle. Two years later he brought out at Cassel Wag- ner's ' Der Fliegende Hollander.' That Spohr, who in the case of Beethoven and Weber, ex- hibited such inability to appreciate novelty and who at bottom was a conservative of con- servatives in music should have been the very first musician of eminence to interest himself in Wagner's talent is a curious fact not easily explained. To some extent his predilection for experiments in music such as he showed in his ' Weihe der Tone,' his Symphony for two orchestras, the Historic Symphony, the Quartet- Concertante and some other things may account for it ; while his long familiarity with the stage had doubtless sharpened his perception for dra- matic effect, and thus enabled him to recognise Wagner's eminently dramatic genius. But there was in Spohr, both as man and as artist, a curious mixture of the ultra-Conservative, nay almost Philistine element, and of the Radical spirit.

To the great disappointment of himself and his English friends, he was unable to conduct the ' Fall of Babylon ' at Norwich, since the Elector refused tho necessary leave of absence. Even a monster petition from his English ad- mirers and a special request from Lord Aberdeen, then at the head of the Government, to the Elector, had not the desired result. His Serene Highness at least felt safe from naval reprisals. The oratorio however was performed with the greatest success, and Spohr had to be satisfied with the reports of his triumph, which poured in from many quarters. On the first day of his summer vacation, he started for England, and soon after his arrival in London conducted a performance of the new oratorio at the Hanover Square Rooms. On this and other occasions his reception here was of the most enthusiastic kind.

��SPOHR.

The oratorio was repeated on a large scale by the Sacred Harmonic Society in Exeter Hall. The last Philharmonic Concert of the season (July 3) was almost entirely devoted to Spohr, having in its programme a symphony, an overture, a violin- concerto, and a vocal duet of his. By special request of the Queen and Prince Albert an extra concert with his co-operation was given on July 10, in which also he was well represented. A most enjoyable tour through the South and West of England, and Wales, brought this visit of Spohr's to a happy end.

The year 1844 was marked by the compo- sition of his last opera, ' Die Kreuzfahrer ' (The Crusaders), for which he had himself arranged the libretto from a play of Kotzebue. It was performed at Cassel and Berlin, but had no lasting success. During his vacations he made a journey to Paris, and witnessed at the Ode'on the 32nd performance of Mendelssohn's 'An- tigone.' The members of the Conservatoire orchestra arranged in Ms honour a special per- formance of his ' Consecration of Sound.' In the same year he conducted the 'Missa SolemmV and the Choral Symphony at the great Beethoven Festival at Bonn. The year 1847 saw him again in London, where the Sacred Harmonic Society announced a series of three concerts for the production of his principal sacred compo- sitions : ' The Fall of Babylon,' ' Calvary,' ' The Last Judgment,' 'The Lord's Prayer,' and Mil- ton's 84th Psalm. However, on grounds similar to those which had roused so much opposition at Norwich, Calvary was omitted from the scheme, and The Fall of Babylon ' repeated in its place.

On his return to Cassel, Spohr seems to have been quite absorbed by the great political events then going on in Germany. In the summer of 1848 he spent his vacations at Frankfort, where the newly created German Parliament was sit- ting, and was never tired of listening to the debates of that short-lived political assembly. In 1849 he composed a fresh symphony, 'The Seasons' his ninth. With 1850 a long chain of annoyances began. When his usual summer va- cation time arrived, the Elector, probably intend- ing to show displeasure at his political opinions, refused to sign the leave of absence a mere formality, as his right to claim the vacation was fixed by contract. After several fruitless at- tempts to obtain the signature, Spohr, having made all his arrangements for a long journey, left Cassel without leave. This step involved him in a law-suit with the administration of the theatre, which lasted for four years, and which he finally lost on technical grounds.

For the London season of 1852 Spohr had re- ceived an invitation from the new Opera at Covent Garden to adapt his ' Faust ' to the Italian stage. He accordingly composed recita- tives in place of the spoken dialogue, and made some further additions and alterations. It was produced with great success under his own direction on July 15, the principal parts being sustained by Castellan, Ronconi, Formes, and Tamberlik. In 1853, after many fruitless at-

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