Sue Young Histories

Louis Spohr 1784 – 1859

August 14, 2009

BrunswickLouis (Ludwig) Spohr 1784 – 1859 was a German composer, violinist and conductor.

Spohr was interested in homeopathy, his father was a homeopath, and he was a friend of Samuel Hahnemann. Spohr was an active Freemason, as was Samuel Hahnemann.

Spohr was a friend of Ludwig von Beethoven, Tobias Haslinger, Ignaz Moscheles, Niccolo Paganini, and in 1790, he took French lessons from Mr. Dufour (?a relative of Jean Barthelemy Arles Dufour?), who convinced Ludwig’s father to alow him to train in music instead of medicine. Later, he trained with Hartung (?a relative of Christophe Hartung?), an old organist in Brunswick.

Spohr was born in Braunschweig in the duchy of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel to Karl Heinrich Spohr and Juliane Ernestine Luise Henke.

Spohr’s first musical encouragement came from his parents: his mother was a gifted singer and pianist, and his father played the flute. A violinist named Dufour gave the lad his earliest violin teaching. The pupil’s first attempts at composition date from the early 1790s. Dufour, recognizing the boy’s musical talent, persuaded his parents to send him to Brunswick for further instruction.

The failure of his first concert tour, a badly planned venture to Hamburg in 1799, caused him to ask Duke Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand of Brunswick for financial help. A successful concert at the court impressed the duke so much that he engaged the 15 year old Spohr as a chamber musician.

In 1802, through the good offices 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. Franz 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. There he met the 18-year old harpist Dorette Scheidler, daughter of one of the court singers, and fell in love with her. To court her, he composed a Sonata in C minor for violin and harp, thus affording the chance to rehearse with her.

He gained permission from Dorette’s mother to drive the girl to the premiere performance in a carriage, but could not bring himself to declare his love. After the performance, on the drive home, he felt emboldened, and proposed, saying “Shall we thus play together for life?” She consented with tears. They were married on February 2, 1806, and lived happily until Dorette’s death 28 years later.

They performed successfully together as a violin and harp duo, touring in Italy (1816-1817), England (1820) and Paris (1821), but Dorette later abandoned her harpist’s career and concentrated on raising their children. Her untimely death in 1834 brought him great sorrow.

In 1808, Spohr practiced with Ludwig von Beethoven at the latter’s home, working on the Piano Trio Opus 70 No. 1, The Ghost. Spohr’s writing indicates the piano was out of tune and that Ludwig von Beethoven’s playing was harsh or careless, which has not been explained with certainty.

Spohr later worked as conductor at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna (1813-1815), where he continued to be on friendly terms with Ludwig von Beethoven; subsequently he was opera director at Frankfurt (1817-1819) where he was able to stage his own operas — the first of which, Faust, had been rejected in Vienna.

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.

In Kassel on 3 January 1836, he married his second wife, the 29-year old Marianne Pfeiffer. She survived him by many years, living until 1892.

In 1851 the elector refused to sign the permit for Spohr’s two months’ leave of absence, to which he was entitled under his contract, and when the musician departed without the permit, a portion of his salary was deducted.

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 old time energy. In 1859 he died at Kassel.

Like Haydn, Mozart, Ludwig von Beethoven, and his own slightly older contemporary Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Spohr was an active Freemason.

Of interest:

Karl Heinrich Spohr **1756 - 1843, **the father of **Louis Spohr, **was a Medical Councillor, Judge of Appeals at Seesen, and homeopath who assisted Samuel Hahnemann in proving remedies.

His name appears in the Zeitung  list of 1832 as practicing Homeopathy in Gandersheim in Brunswick, the Frederick Hervey Foster Quin lists, and also in Thomas Roupell Everest’s lists. He also practiced in Seesen. He was also a contributor to the Samuel Hahnemann Jubilee of 1829.

Karl Henrich Spohr ran away from school at age 16 to escape punishment, and spent a good deal of time wandering and having an adventurous life. Finally settling down in Brunswick, he graduated in medicine and married Juliane Ernestine Luise Henke, and they had 5 sons and a daughter.

Karl Heinrich Spohr was a colleague of Rube, and he was a prodigeous writer, translator and annotator, and he published statistics on homeopathic cures, and he submitted cases and articles to various homeopathic publications, and he wrote Veterinarisches Handbuch, Meditata in casum medico-practicum de vomitu bilioso in gravida, __