Louis Spohr's daughters

                   Emilie Zahn                                                Johanna Sophia Luise (Ida) Wolff                        Therese Spohr    


(27. May 1807 - 13. June 1895)                 (6. November 1808 - 13. September 1881)        (29. July 1818 - 3. June 1838) ____________________________________________________________________________________________________


Louis Spohr *April 5, 1784 in Braunschweig  -  † October 22, 1859 in Kassel;
German composer, violin virtuoso and music director.
Born Ludwig Spohr, he is usually known by the French form of his name: Louis.


Maestro Dufour gave him his earliest instruction on the violin. His first attempts at composition date from the early 1790s. Dufour, recognizing the boy's musical talent, persuaded his parents to send him to Braunschweig for further instruction. Spohr's family lived at those times in the town of Seesen, Harz.


A successful concert at the court impressed the Duke (Herzog Ferdinand von Braunschweig)  so much that he engaged the 15-year old Spohr as a chamber musician in 1799. Three years later, in 1802, through the good influences of the Duke, he became the pupil of Franz Eck and accompanied him on a concert tour which took him as far as St. Petersburg. Eck, who completely retrained Spohr in violin technique, was a product of the Mannheim school, and Spohr became its most prominent heir.


Spohr's first notable compositions, including his First Violin Concerto, date from this time. After his return home, the Duke granted him leave to make a concert tour of North Germany. A concert in Leipzig in December 1804 brought the influential music critic Friedrich Rochlitz "to his knees”, not only because of Spohr's playing, but also because of his compositions. This concert brought the young man overnight fame in the whole German-speaking world.

In 1805, Spohr got a job as concertmaster at the court of Gotha, where he stayed until 1812.


Spohr later worked as conductor at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna (1813-1815), where he became friendly with Beethoven; subsequently he was opera director at Frankfurt am Main (1817-1819).


The Opera House of Kassel


Spohr's longest post, from 1822 until his death in Kassel, was as the director of music at the court of Kassel, a position offered him on the suggestion of Carl Maria von Weber.

He toured with great successes to Italy, Russia, France and
Great Britain.

In 1857 he was pensioned off, much against his own wish, and in the winter of the same year he had the misfortune to break his arm, an accident which put an end to his violin playing. Nevertheless he conducted his opera Jessonda at the fiftieth anniversary of the Prague Conservatorium in the following year, with all his former energy. In 1859 he died at Kassel.


Spohr wrote music in all genres. His ten symphonies show a progress from the classical style of his predecessors to the romantic program music..

 Between 1803 and 1844 Spohr wrote more violin concertos than any other composer of the time, eighteen in all. Some of them are formally unconventional, such as the one-movement Concerto No. 8, which is in the style of an operatic aria, and which is still periodically revived (Jascha Heifetz championed it), most recently in a 2006 recording by Hilary Hahn.


Among Spohr's chamber music is a series of no fewer than 36 string quartets as well as four interesting double quartets (for two string quartets). He also wrote an assortment of other quartets, duos, trios, quintets and sextets, octet and nonet, works for solo violin and for solo harp, and works for violin and harp which have been played by him and his wife Dorette, born Scheidler.



Picture of Spohr's first wife Dorette, a famous harp virtuoso. She died in 1834.
Spohr married two years later Marianne Pfeiffer, a pianist.
His youngest daughter Therese died three years after her mother's death in 1837.
Spohr suffered a long time over these bereavements.



Although his nine operas are today almost forgotten, Spohr's FAUST (Prague1816, conducted by Carl Maria von Weber), ZEMIRE UND AZOR ( Frankfurt 1819) and JESSONDA (Kassel 1823) remained in the popular repertoire through the 19th century  and well into the 20th  until 1941, when JESSONDA was banned by the Nazis because it depicted a European hero in love with an Indian princess.

Spohr  wrote more than100 songs, many of them collected as Deutsche Lieder (German Songs), as well as

 a mass and other choral works. His four oratorios, particularly  Die letzten Dinge (The Last Judgement)  1825/26, were greatly admired during the 19th century.

Spohr was very popular in the Victorian era in Great Britain that Gilbert & Sullivan mentioned him in the same breath as Bach and Beethoven in Act  2  of The Mikado in a song by the title character.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Spohr's second wife Marianne Pfeiffer

("Wär ich ein Vöglein, flög ich zu ihm") op. 37 Nr. 5
Signature: "komponiert von Louis Spohr Carolath den 20sten May 1815"
Autograph first version,  Internationale Louis Spohr Gesellschaft e.V. Kassel.



Click to:

Spohr Vocal Music