The celebrated violinist Louis Spohr (1784–1859) had studied the harp as a boy in his native Brunswick. In 1806 he married the harpist Dorette Scheidler and began writing for the instrument to great effect. The harp of Spohr’s day was a smaller instrument than is used now, and to allow for greater resonance, and lessen the possibility of breaking strings, he tuned Dorette’s harp a semitone lower than the normal pitch. He would then write the harp part in a flat key, and a violin part for himself in a sharp key a semitone lower. That is to say, the harp in E flat would be in perfect accord with the violin in D. The set of variations recorded here, on an air by the Paris opera composer Étienne Nicholas Méhul (1763–1817) was composed in 1807 and makes great technical demands on the performer.
from notes by Susan Drake © 1981