Louis Spohr Composer
Clarinet Concerto No.2 in Eb, Op.57
Musicology:Prince Sondershausen's concert director, the renowned clarinet virtuoso Johann Simon Hermstedt (1778-1846), had scored such a resounding success with Spohr's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in 1808 that, for the 1810 Frankenhausen Festival, he pressed the composer for another. Featuring over 100 singers and 106 instrumentalists, the festival promised to be a trendsetting event of rare magnitude and brilliance, especially with the enormously gifted 26-year-old Spohr at the helm. Spohr set aside work on his second opera, Der Zweikampf mit der Geliebten, to compose the Concerto No. 2 in a few weeks, just ahead of its premiere on June 22, 1810. Reviewing the festival, Ernst Ludwig Gerber hailed Spohr's direction of Haydn's The Creation—with the innovation of a roll of paper used as a primitive baton—as "the most powerful, most expressive, and in a word the most successful I have ever heard," and singled out the new clarinet concerto as "indisputably one of the most perfect artistic works of its kind." Posterity has tended to agree with Gerber: the Concerto No. 2 continued to be played with Weber's two clarinet concertos long after most of Spohr's other work had disappeared from the concert hall. In the Clarinet Concerto No. 1, Spohr's manner had begun to emerge from a welter of influences. In the Second, he is in full stride. Of the four concertos written for Hermstedt, the Second is the only one in a major key, with the opening Allegro mining that eupeptic vein of effusive cheerfulness and bürgerlich self-satisfaction, set off by feints of chromatic delirium that was to become such an agreeable staple of his music throughout a long and amazingly prolific career. No doubt, it reflects his happy marriage to harpist Dorette Scheidler in 1806 and his growing renown as a composer and conductor. Indeed, it is remarkable for its march-like élan, which looks forward to the irresistibly driven "Ambrosian Ode" third movement of his Symphony No. 4 (1832). A soulful second movement Adagio, yearning in its long-drawn cantilena and rapid modulations, is darkened for a moment by a mock-serious episode suggesting matters of great pith and moment before subsiding in sweetly detailed, silvery liquescence. The final, gently rollicking Rondo alla polacca, with its chirpily confiding clarinet melody and discreet chromaticisms, is Spohr in his most good-natured, bourgeois humor: a mixture of popular sentiment, rustic vigor, and scintillant musical sophistication.
Clarinet Concerto No.2 in Eb, Op.57Key: Eb
Pr. Instrument: Clarinet
© Adrian Corleonis, All Music Guide