Spohr – Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 57

by Max Derrickson

Ludwig Spohr    (1784-1859)

Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 57

Ludwig Spohr premiered his second concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in E-flat Major, Op. 57, at one of the first music festivals in Frankenhausen in 1810. It was radiantly received, and critics claimed “it belongs to the most perfect works of this kind.”

German composer Ludwig Spohr was a violinist, composer, conductor, innovator, and political activist. His contemporaries often remarked on the towering stature of his democratic and liberal beliefs, as well as his 6’7” frame. He can be credited with pioneering the use of the baton with an orchestra, inventing the chin rest for the violin, and introducing rehearsal letters in printed music. He rose above being simply a virtuoso violinist who wrote violin concertos; he scored 13 operas, 17 overtures and symphonies, 18 violin concertos, 4 clarinet concertos, and numerous chamber works. Still, as popular as Ludwig Spohr was during his lifetime, his works were written in the age between stalwart classicism and the burgeoning romantic period, and in the currents of history, his bourgeois style was one that was somewhat laid aside. It is only recently that more of his works are being resurrected, to the delight of concert audiences.

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There is good reason that this work received such heavy praise in 1820. Like Carl Maria von Weber, Spohr was respected for his inventiveness and forward looking harmonies. Spohr blends a chromatacism (such would later be exploited in the romantic era) with a flowing serenity. Of particular note is the solo part for clarinet, which is extremely well suited to the instrument and highly virtuosic. The finale, for example,
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