Movement 1: Allegro vivace
Movement 2: Larghetto
Movement 3: Rondo al espagnol
The fourth concerto, the only one Spohr composed for the A clarinet, opens with a sombre Romantic-sounding theme (Allegro vivace) which is contrasted with a more serene second subject, but this relaxed atmosphere is interrupted by powerful though brief orchestral outbursts. The Larghetto is reflective and melancholy, with operatic touches coming from declamatory passages and dramatic arpeggios.
The finale, a Rondo al espagnol, appears on the surface to be a joyous, good-humoured movement but there is an underlying feeling of sadness emphasized by the E minor tonality that dominates proceedings. The opening theme of the work is echoed in the arpeggio figuration at the close. Spohr had earlier used a Spanish finale in his sixth violin concerto, composed in the winter of 1808–9 after hearing a Spanish soldier quartered on him in Gotha play his native melodies on a guitar, and he turned to this Spanish inspiration for a number of further works including a string quartet and an opera as well as this clarinet concerto.
from notes by Keith Warsop © 2008