“for this purpose I chose such a mighty instrument, which requires a proper way of life to maintain the strength for it…”
– This quote of Johann Matthias Sperger gives us an idea of his creative force and zest for life.
Sperger was born in 1750 in Feldberg (today called Valtice) near Brno, then Lower Austria. During his years of study in Vienna, and from 1777 as a member of the orchestra of the later cardinal of Hungary, Duke Joseph of Batthyany, he established a reputation for himself as a “virtuoso on the bass violone”.
It was in Pressburg (Bratislava) that Sperger composed 17 of his 45 symphonies and 6 of his 18 double bass concertos. In 1779, Sperger became a member of the prestigious “Wiener Tonkünstler-Societät” (Vienna Society of Musicians).
After the closing of the orchestra of Pressburg in 1783, Sperger went on several concert tours, both in his country and abroad, to find a suitable job. In 1788, Sperger was finally allowed to perform before the then Crown Prince and later King Frederick William II of Prussia at the court in Berlin, taking the opportunity to give the latter a whole pile of his many compositions as a gift. After receiving “the very highest applause”, he was offered a position in the court orchestra at Ludwigslust, the recently completed residence of the house of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
It was a dream job: good lodgings, performing concerts, composing, teaching, and no copying of sheet music - a dreaded, time-consuming task usually demanded of court composers and Sperger`s main source of income for many years. Now, even the solo parts of his works were written out by copyists.
Sperger was even allowed to work as a farmer in his spare time.
In Ludwigslust, the composer had finally found the support, security and inspiration he had always sought, and stayed there until his death in 1812.
Sperger´s complete works are housed in the archives of the state library of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, along with many other works for the double bass of the Classical period.
The music school named after Sperger, a street bearing his name, and a memorial statue of him, are testimony to the good years the composer spent in Ludwigslust and the honour and recognition he receives from the city.
“We are talking about a man who has a rare and unique talent, and who surpasses all those who have ever dared to attempt to conquer the difficulties of such a difficult instrument; it is Mr Sperger, player of the Conter Violon, who played for the king 8 times in a row, always with the same success…”
Every two years, young double bassists from around the world travel to Ludwigslust for some healthy artistic sparring and lively musical exchanges during the International Johann Matthias Sperger Competition.
Christine Hoock presides over the International J.M. Sperger Society and thus also the competition, assisted by a young, motivated team.
The current patrons of the competition are conductor Thomas Hengelbrock, and Birgit Hesse.
The city of Ludwigslust is the organiser of the competition, presenting it in cooperation with the International J.M. Sperger Society.
The competition was created by Klaus Trumpf, who for decades has passionately and tirelessly managed Sperger´s heritage and brought it to international attention.
Every two years, young double bassists from around the world travel to Ludwigslust for some healthy artistic sparring and lively musical exchanges during the International Johann Matthias Sperger Competiton. Klaus Trumpf, who for decades has passionately and tirelessly managed Sperger´s heritage and brought it to international attention, created this competition. In 2016, the reins passed to the hands of Christine Hoock, who now presides over the International J.M. Sperger Society and thus also the competition, assisted by a young, motivated team.
Sources: A. Planyavsky, A. Meier, MDG