A love story woven around a Romantic harp

Have a cheerful day! © Charles Thibo

Morning light. Peace. A day of joy is about to begin. Those were my thoughts a week ago when I rose on in the morning. A harp. Music with harp seemed to be appropriate to start the day. Here is what I came up with: In 1806 the German composer Louis Spohr wrote his Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Harp in G major, WoO 13. A cheerful Romantic work, recorded by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Marielle Nordmann (harp) and Pierre Amoyal (violin).

Praise from Robert Schumann

Spohr – every now and then I come across that name, mostly when reading up on Romantic composers. However it took an enthusiastic essay by Robert Schumann to spark my desire to actually hear something that Spohr had composed. Schumann characterized him as an “accomplished master […] who never expressed anything that had not its origin deep in his heart and who can be recognized by the very first sound”. If Schumann, himself a genius, appeared to venerate Spohr, than Spohr should be entitled to at least one post on this blog.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, Spohr, born in 1784, belongs to the early generation of Romantic musicians. He was a popular composer during his lifetime, a renown conductor and the best violinist in Germany in the early 19th century. Unfortunately he was quickly forgotten after his death in 1859. One must admit that he had tough competitors for fame: Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Mendelssohn and Schumann.

Soloist – conductor – composer

Spohr built his career first as a soloist and conductor. The Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Harp was written in 1806, after Spohr had written a series of violin concertos and several string quartets. From 1810 on he would compose chiefly symphonic works; he gradually became more daring as far as the scale of his works and their instrumentation is concerned. There are not too many symphonic works where the harp plays a primary role.

The composer had learned to play the harp as a young boy, as he writes in his memoirs. Though he focused later on the violin, his love for the instrument remained strong. “I have dealt with it long enough to know how difficult it is to play if one is not content with a mere accompanying role.” The fondness for the harp led him to another kind of love. In 1805, Spohr becomes the Konzertmeister of the orchestra of Duke Carl Wilhelm Ferdinand of Brunswick in the town of Gotha. There he met the harpist Dorette Scheidler. “You can imagine my astonishment and amazement when I heard this young girl play a difficult fantasy […] with great confidence and the most fine nuances.” His fascination would last: Dorette Scheidler would later become his wife.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

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