Louis [Ludwig] Spohr (1784-1859): Nonet in F, Op. 31, scored for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass.
A nonet? Why on earth?? I’ll let Spohr himself explain…
“Word had hardly gotten around Vienna that I was to settle there when one morning a distinguished visitor presented himself: a Herr Johann von Tost*, manufacturer and passionate music lover. He began a hymn of praise about my talent as a composer, and expressed the wish that, for a suitable emolument, everything that I should write in Vienna be reckoned as his property for a period of three years. Then he added, ‘Your works may be performed as often as possible, but the score must be borrowed from me for each occasion and performed only in my presence.’ I was to think it over and myself determine the fee for each type of composition. With this he presented his card and took his leave. I attempted in vain to fathom the motive of this proposal, and I finally decided to question him directly. First, however, I made some inquiries about him, and determined that he was a rich man and a great lover of music who never missed a public concert. This was reassuring, and I decided to accept his proposal. As fee, I set 30 ducats for a quartet, 35 for a quintet and so forth. When I asked him just what he proposed to do with my works, he was reluctant to answer, but finally said, ‘I have two objectives. First, I want to be invited to the musicales where your pieces will be played, and therefore I must have them in my possession. Secondly, I hope that on my business trips the possession of such treasures will bring me the acquaintanceship of music lovers who, in turn, may be useful to me in my business.’ While all this did not make much sense to me, I found it most pleasantly flattering, and I had no further reservations. Tost accepted the fees that I had set, and further agreed to pay upon delivery. The appropriate documents were drawn up and signed accordingly…
…I bethought myself of my obligation to Tost, and asked him what he would like. He thought for a moment and decided for a nonet, made up of four strings plus flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn, to be written in such a way that each instrument would appear in its true character. I was much attracted by the difficulty of the assignment and went right to work. This was the origin of the famous Nonet…I finished the work in short order and delivered it to Tost. It was played at one of the first musicales of the new season and aroused such enthusiasm that it was repeated frequently in the course of that same season. Tost appeared each time with the score and parts under his arm, set them out on the music stands himself, and gathered them up again after the performance. He was as pleased by the applause as if he himself had been the composer.”
Louis Spohr: Autobiography
* Tost, who was also a violinist (before becoming a successful textile merchant he’d played in Haydn’s orchestra in Eszterháza), achieved a sort of second-hand immortality by commissioning several sets of quartets from Haydn (unsurprisingly known as the Tost Quartets).
1. Allegro (01:02 – 09:32)
2. Scherzo (09:45 – 17:50)
3. Adagio (18:11 – 25:54)
4. Finale (26:07 – 32:38)