Since 2016, the International J.M. Sperger Society e.V. and thus also the International J.M. Sperger Competition for Double Bass has been directed by Christine Hoock / University Mozarteum Salzburg, together with her team from Germany, Austria and Portugal.
The International J.M. Sperger Society is the promoter of the competition, which takes place every two years and in 2022 will be organised in cooperation with the Rostock University of Music and Drama / Germany.
Current patrons are the Minister-President of the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Manuela Schwesig, and the conductor Thomas Hengelbrock.
The International J.M. Sperger Society has its domicile in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Germany. The non-profit association has about 100 registered members of international origin and was founded in 2001 by Klaus Trumpf.
The mission of the International J.M. Sperger Society is the international advancement of the largest string instrument, the double bass, and its concert literature with patronage and cultural promotion of the important composer and double bassist Johannes Sperger. The committed association also aims to expand the repertoire through the commissioning of contemporary works, musicological work and research, as well as the development of the youth and wider community. Collaborations exist with various universities as well as the Schwerin State Library.
The International J.M. Sperger Double Bass Competition is the internationally recognised flagship of the International J.M. Sperger Society's promotion of excellence.
“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…”
Sources: A. Planyavsky, A. Meier, MDG