Spohr, Ludwig

Spohr, Ludwig or Louis

(lo͝ot`vĭkh shpōr, lo͞o`ē), 1784–1859, German composer, conductor, and violinist. After touring Europe extensively, he was (1822–57) court conductor in Kassel. His prolific output includes 11 operas, of which Faust (1816) and Jessonda (1823) are the most important; 9 symphonies, many of them programmatic; 15 violin concertos; numerous oratorios and other choral works; and a large quantity of chamber music. His music, which was influential in his day, shows a curious mixture of conservative and progressive tendencies. A mannered chromaticism, derived from Mozart, anticipated that of Wagner, whose works Spohr was one of the first to champion. As a violinist, Spohr developed a style which, through his teaching and his famous Violinschule (1831), became the basis for the German school of violin playing.


See his autobiography (1845, tr. 1878).

Spohr, Ludwig


(also Louis Spohr). Born Apr. 5, 1784, in Braunschweig; died Oct. 22, 1859, in Kassel. German composer, Violinist, conductor, and teacher.

The son of a doctor, Spohr studied violin under F. Eck, with whom he made a trip to Russia. He held the post of kapellmeister in Braunschweig and Gotha and was a concertmaster in Vienna from 1812 to 1816; he also appeared on occasion in London and Paris. In 1822, Spohr was appointed kapellmeister to the court at Kassel. His European concert tours as a violinist and conductor were enormously successful.

As a violinist, Spohr was noted for his full, singing tone and impeccable technique. The founder of the 19th-century German school of violin playing, he educated several generations of violinists, including F. David, A. Kompel, and L. Saint-Luban; he was the author of Violin School (1831). Spohr, who played a major role in the development of conducting into an independent performing art, was among the first to use the baton. As a composer, he was a representative of the romantic trend in German music.

Spohr composed ten operas, with plots taken, for the most part, from historical or fantastic subjects; the most popular were Faust (stage 1816 in Prague under the direction of C. M. von Weber), Jessonda (1823), The Alchemist (1830), and the Crusaders (1845). Among his other works are nine symphonies, 15 violin concerti, and 34 string quartets. Spohr’s Autobiography (vols. 1–2, 1860–61) provides a broad survey of the musical life of the first half of the 19th century.


Stierlin, L. L. Spohr. Zürich, 1862–63.
Robert, C. L. Spohr. Berlin, 1883.