Jeremy Nicholas on the ‘Lost Romantics,’ composers lauded in their era and after who are now footnotes: Spohr, Meyerbeer, perhaps even my beloved CPE Bach. This ‘falling out of the canon’ is more common than one would think in all realms of endeavor: John Sutherland has a recent wonderful Sir Walter Scott piece in TLS. The first superstar best seller, now largely forgotten except for the odd legacy of a “Waverly” Street or Avenue in thousands of U.S. cities. Nicholas makes the case for Ludwig Sphor (could it be the unfortunate name that did him in for posterity?). Calls his clarinet concerti delightful, a judgement that Naxos Music Library confirms.
The Lost Romantics
In his opening number, the eponymous Mikado in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta sings of the music-hall singer who attends a series of ‘masses and fugues and ’ops / By Bach, interwoven / With Spohr and Beethoven, / At classical Monday Pops.’ Yes, Ludwig (or Louis as he called himself in his autobiography) Spohr was a familiar enough name to be cited alongside Beethoven and Bach. True, Gilbert needed a composer with a single-syllable name to fit his verse scansion, but neither Gluck, Grieg, Liszt, Raff nor even Johann Strauss conveyed the desired effect quite as effectively as Spohr. Spohr was simply part of the canon in those days.