Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)

Der Fall Babylons - Overture, WoO63 (1840) [7:23]
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op 78 (1828) [30:09]
Symphony No. 6 in G major, The Historical Symphony Op. 116 (1839) [26:07]
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley
rec. March 2009, Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
HYPERION CDA67788 [63:38]
Spohr Symphonies from Hyperion
1 / 2 http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Aug07/spohr_CDA67616.htm
4 / 5 not yet reviewed
This is the third CD in Hyperion's Spohr cycle. Rather like Tudor's Raff project this one was also preceded by a mixed origins cycle from Marco Polo. When complete this will be the first Spohr symphony cycle to be produced by one orchestra, one conductor and one company. There are ten symphonies spanning the years 1811 to 1857. For Spohr the symphony was a lifelong attraction to one of the world's most demanding art-forms. By the look of it there’s another two discs to go.
Before we get to the symphonies on this disc we hear the premiere recording of the overture to an oratorio written in 1840: Der Fall Babylons. It was premiered at the Norwich Musical Festival in 1842. Spohr’s oratorios were as popular in the Victorian British Isles as those of Bruch, Dvorák and Mendelssohn. The overture is a compact work of about the same length as Beethoven's Egmont. The work that had so impressed the Norwich committee as to result in a further major commission was the oratorio Des Heilands letzte Stunden (known in the UK as Calvary). The overture smacks of Schumann especially in its vigorous aspects. Its structure recalls the overtures of Weber with a subdued mellifluous prelude preceding the restless and the almost heroic sections. Then we come to two romantic half hour symphonies. The Third Symphony is determined, sunny, smooth and reminiscent again of Schumann this time in his Second Symphony. The second movement is sweetly themed with some decorative woodwind work. The woodland Scherzo trips along in pastoral contentment. The Allegro finale romps cheerily with deft Rossinian lightness of spirit. The work ends amid grandeur: drums and brass to the vanguard. The work was premiered in Kassel in 1828 in a concert which also included Beethoven's Choral. A decade later came the Sixth Symphony. The Historical Symphony is in four movements each modelled on the music of a particular era. The first is Bach-Handel 1720. It's fugal and has a weightiness that contrasts with the Third Symphony. The accomplishment and confidence of a master craftsman can be felt. Despite the schema Spohr does not impose rigid pastiche constraints. This is Spohr with a nod towards fugal Bach – no more. The Haydn-Mozart 1780 - Larghetto is sweetly rounded with some lovely airborne effects as at 00:54 where Shelley pitches the transition so that the music takes delightfully to wing. This is smooth and suave music. The Scherzo represents the Beethoven period 1810 with quite a striking and patteringly tense piece of writing. It smacks of a Midsummer Night's Dream - fairy stuff. The finale 1840 is stirring and somewhat military in its percussion lines. The strings are delicate here but not as rich as they might ideally be though I only noticed this in this movement.
The whole is completed by Keith Warsop who is Chairman of the Spohr Society of Great Britain. I hope that the other two instalments are already in the bag.
Rob Barnett
The accomplishment and confidence of a master craftsman can be felt ... see Full Review