Fantasy & Variations for Clarinet and Strings
Spohr was only 22 in 1806 when he composed the Op.4 String Quartets, his first two, but already at this young age he was widely known as one of Europe's best soloists and held the position of Music Director at the court of Gotha.
Louis Spohr (1784-1859 also known as Ludwig) was born in the German city of Braunschweig. From early childhood, he showed a great aptitude for the violin. He studied with the virtuoso violinist Franz Anton Eck in St. Petersburg. It was at a concert in Leipzig in December 1804 that the famous music critic Friedrich Rochlitz first heard Spohr and pronounced him a genius not only because of his playing but also because of his compositions. Literally overnight, the young Spohr became a household word in the German-speaking musical world. During the first half of the 19th century he was regarded as one of the great men of music. Spohr wrote in virtually every genre, not the least being chamber music. He composed some 36 string quartets, 7 string quintets, five piano trios, four double quartets and several other chamber pieces.
The Fantasy & Variations, which dates from 1813, came about as a result of the request of the German clarinetist, Johann Hermstadt who was trying to establish himself as soloist. The theme which Spohr used was from an opera by Franz Danzi but it was also used by several other composers including Franz Schubert. It is clearly a work for the clarinet which is offered a virtuoso part, however, the strings are not ignored.