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Louis SPOHR (1784–1859)
Grand Concert Overture in F major WoO1 (1819) [6:31]
Symphony No 1 in E flat major Op 20 (1811) [36:36]
Symphony No 2 in D minor Op 49 (1820) [30:48]
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley
rec. Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland, 11-15 September 2006. DDD
HYPERION CDA67616 [74:04]

What CPO have done for Ferdinand Ries, Hyperion promise to do for Spohr and they certainly do it in style – look at the session time! Marco Polo have done all the symphonies, many of the concertos and most of the chamber music across some 34 discs. Accordingly Hyperion are not going to be first in the field - except in relation to the overture. However they do lavish shining care on these performances and their technical aspects. The results are very fine in every respect.
Let’s start with some orientation. The music is in broadly Beethovenian style but here we are talking early Beethoven – at least up to and including the Eroica. And before anyone takes me to task for parallels being drawn with works that may not have been written at the time I make these comments merely to help listeners find their bearings. Other references including late Mozart – symphonies 40 and 41 and even a skim of Schumann from the Fourth Symphony. You can hear the latter as well as the rippling tension of Eroica and Jupiter in the imposing Grand Concert Overture here receiving its first recording.
The first of the ten symphonies written between 1811 and 1857 is supple, broad and splendid in its autumnal Mozartean charm as well as in its more tempestuous hauteur. Echoes of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 are not infrequent but then we also hear music that links with Beethoven 3 and 6. There are some memorably sturdy horn-lofted climaxes in the finale. The First Symphony greatly impressed London’s then newly fledged Philharmonic Society and such was the warmth of the reception that Spohr immediately set about writing the Second Symphony for them. He completed this work very quickly. This symphony has a sanguine and buoyant character. After a gentle larghetto comes a ripplingly vivacious Scherzo which at times might almost be by Mendelssohn. Each of the two symphonies is in four movement format. Both found enduring favour with British audiences of the time and this only began to fade in the 1870s. It is no surprise that they should have done so well because although they are obviously indebted to others they have an honest and good-spirited élan which is heard to perfection in the finale to the Second Symphony.
Spohr was feted in his time yet his music sank deeper than plummet’s plunge after his death. It was an undeserved fate. Apart from the clarinet concertos which have kept a lively shelf life it was only in the 1980s that his music began to resuscitate. Can we soon hope that some label will do a similarly accomplished and comprehensive job for Cipriani Potter as others have done in style for Méhul and Weber?
Rob Barnett


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