Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/673

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tempts, which were regularly frustrated by t'he Elector, he at last succeeded in bringing out Wagner's ' Tannhauser ' at Cassel. In reference to it he says in his Autobiography, ' this opera contains a great deal that is new and beautiful, but also some things which are ugly and ex- cruciating to the ear,' and speaking of the 2nd finale he says : ' in this finale now and then a truly frightful music is produced.' That he considered Wagner by far the greatest of all living dramatic composers he declared as soon as he became acquainted with The Flying Dutch- man. From Tannhauser he would have pro- ceeded to Lohengrin, but owing to the usual opposition of the court, all his endeavours to bring it out were frustrated. In the same year he came for the sixth and last time to England, to fulfil an engagement at the New Philharmonic Concerts. At three of these he conducted not only many of his own works especially the Symphony for two orchestras but also the Choral Symphony. At the same time Jessonda was in preparation at Covent Garden. But as it could not be produced before the close of his vacation, Spohr was un- able to conduct it himself.

From this time his powers began to decline. He still went on composing, but declared him- self dissatisfied with the results. In 1857 ne was pensioned off, very much against his wish, and in the winter of the same year had the misfortune to break his arm, which compelled him to give up violin-playing. Once more, in 1858, at the celebration of the 5<Dth anniver- sary of the Prague Conservatorium, he 'con- ducted his Jessonda with wonderful energy. It was his last public appearance. He died quietly on Oct. 22, 1859, at Cassel, and thus closed the long life of a man and an artist who had to the full developed the great talents and powers given to him ; who throughout a long career had lived up to the ideal he had conceived in youth ; in whom private character and artistic activity corresponded to a rare degree, even in their foibles and deficiencies. That these last were not small cannot be denied. His utter want of critical power, in reference both to himself and to others, is fully exposed in his interesting Auto- biography, 1 which however bears the strongest possible testimony to his rare manly straightfor- wardness and sincerity in word and deed, and to the childlike purity of mind which he preserved from early youth to latest age. Difficult as it is to understand his famous criticisms on Beethoven and his interest for Wagner, their sincerity cannot be doubted for a moment. According to his lights he ever stood up for the dignity of his art, with the same unflinching independence of character with which he claimed, not without personal risk, the rights of a free citizen. He was born with an individuality so peculiar and so strong as to allow hardly any influeilce to outer elements. It is true that he called himself a disciple of Mozart. But the universality of Mozart's talent was the very reverse of Spohr's

1 'Louis Spohr's Selbstbiographie ; Cassel und GOttingen, G. H. Wigand, I860.' 2 vols., with portrait and 17 facsimiles.

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��exclusive individualism ; and except in their great regard for ' form,' and in a certam similarity of melodic structure, the two masters have hardly anything in common. Spohr certainly was a born musician, second only to the very greatest masters in true musical instinct ; in power of concentration and of work hardly inferior to any. But the range of his talent was not wide: he never seems to have been able to step out of a given circle of ideas and sentiments, and when he tried to enlarge his sphere, it was only to get hold of the outer shell of things, which he at once proceeded to fill with the old familiar substance. He never left the circle of his in- dividuality, but drew everything within it. At the same time it must be confessed that he left much outside of that circle, and his ignorance of the achievements of others was often astound- ing. This is illustrated by a well-authenticated story. A pupil of his left him, and went for some time to Leipzig to study the piano and other branches of music. On his return to Cassel he called on Spohr, and was asked to play to him. The pupil played Beethoven's Sonata in E minor op. 90. Spohr was much struck, and when the piece was finished made the singular enquiry, 'Have you composed much more in that style, Herr ?'

He was fond of experiments in composition such as new combinations of instruments (to wit the Double Quartets, the Symphony for two or- chestras, the Quartet-Concerto, and others), or adoption of programmes ('Consecration of Sound'; Concertino, 'Past and Present,' etc.), and thus showed his eagerness to strike out new paths. But after all, what do we find under these new dresses and fresh-invented titles but the same dear old Spohr, incapable of putting on a really new face, even for a few bars ? ' Napoleon,' says Robert 2 Schumann (a propos to Spohr's Histori- cal Symphony), ' once went to a masked ball, but before he had been in the room a few minutes folded his arms in his well-known attitude. " The Emperor ! the Emperor ! " at once ran through the place. Just so, through the disguises of the Symphony, one kept hearing " Spohr, Spohr " in every corner of the room.' Hence there is consi- derable sameness nay, monotony, in his works. Be it oratorio or concerto, opera or string-quartet he treats them all very much in the same man- ner, and it is not so much the distinctive styles peculiar to these several forms of music that we find, as Spohr's peculiar individuality impressed upon all of them. He certainly was not devoid of originality in fact his style and manner are so entirely his own that no composer is perhaps so absolutely unmistakeable as he is. That an originality so strong and so inalienable, unless supported by creative power of the very first order and controlled by self-criticism, would easily lead to mannerism is obvious ; and a man- nerist he must be called.

Certain melodious phrases and cadences, chro- matic progressions and enharmonic modulations, in themselves beautiful enough, and most effective. a Gesammelte Schriften. ir. 89

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