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Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Music for Violin and Harp No. 2
Sonata in D, Op 114
Fantasie on Themes of Danzi and Vogler in b, Op 118
Sonata in G, Op 115
"Des Heilands letzte Stunden:" Maryís aria*
"Der Erbvertrag:" Lied der Emma*
Sophie Langdon, violin; Hugh Webb, harp
*Alison Smart, soprano; Roger Montgomery, horn; Susan Dorey, cello
Recorded at St Martinís Church East Woodhay, Newbury, Berkshire, August 2000
NAXOS 8.555365
[73.51]



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Louis (or Ludwig) Spohr was greatly popular and widely praised during his lifetime as the successor to Mozart. He died confident of his place high among musicís immortals; the young Brahms eulogized: "Spohr is dead! He was probably the last of those who still belonged to an artistic period more satisfying than the one in which we now suffer ... our epoch will go down in the annals of art as a pit of trash Ö" Fickle fame deserted Spohrís memory and his works were forgotten. He was "discovered" in the 1950s, and has been slowly re-emerging into the spotlight since then.

Spohrís music is ravishingly beautiful, and sounds very much like Mozart without any trace of dark emotions or pedantic intellectualism. Some people find it cloying, can enjoy it only in small doses, or dismiss it as background music. But for sheer delight of gorgeous sound he is beyond comparison, as in this Sonata, one of his finest works. The notes tell a charming story of Spohrís courting his future wife by composing music for her so her strict mother would let her out of the house to attend rehearsals and the lovers could meet. She was a harpist, so much of this music was written for her.

The D Major Sonata has as its second movement a set of embellishments on themes from Mozartís Magic Flute. The Fantasie on Themes of Danzi and Vogler further illustrates his talent at embellishing a theme. The G Major Sonata shows his skill at constructing more traditional sonata movements while keeping the graceful, elegant surface. The Aria from Des Heilands letzte Stunden was written for his fatally ill wife and is a setting of the Maryís mourning for the slain Jesus. The music expresses only a wisful, gentle sadness with no hint of morbidity. Emmaís song is delightful.

Spohrís works require the highest standards of virtuoso tone production and elegance of phrasing and the artists in the present recording all do a fine job.

This disc is produced in cooperation with the Spohr Society of Great Britain, 121 Mount View Road, Sheffield, S8 8PJ; e-mail: chtutt@yahoo.co.uk

Paul Shoemaker

See also review by Christopher Fifield


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