Hyperion continues its laudable Spohr recordings with this valuable
release, which includes the first recording of an overture.
Production values are of the very highest, and the Swiss orchestra
The disc begins with the overture, Die Zweikampf mit der
Geliebten (“The Duel with the Beloved”). The
E minor introduction is directly reminiscent of Haydn’s
Sturm und Drang works; the main body adds dynamism to
the drama. The plot - this was Spohr’s first opera to
be produced - concerns a heroine who, Leonore-like, disguises
herself as a man and is forced to fight a duel against the man
she loves. At the last minute, the fight is averted and all
ends happily. The performance here is the only one on the disc
taken from a live event, and indeed seems imbued with a fine
spirit of the moment.
The Eighth Symphony (1847) again begins with a slow introduction
but here it is largely a compositional feint. The Eighth’s
concerns are more of the sunshine variety - think Dvořák.
There is a delightful fugato in the first movement, and Shelley
has a wonderful way of following the ebb and flow of phrases
throughout. Spohr introduced contrast during various transitional
passages; the slow movement invokes Schumann in particular.
Exquisitely sculpted by Shelley and his forces, it is pure joy.
The Hyperion engineers are at the peak of their powers here,
too. Counterpoint is perfectly layered reflecting true teamwork
between Shelley and the recording team with textures marvellously
balanced. Schumann again hovers over the Scherzo. There is an
extended part for solo violin in the Trio, expertly given by
the orchestra’s leader, Anthony Flint. The finale again
gives great pleasure, not least the upward-moving fanfare motif
that dominates, and which suits the horn so well. Shelley ensures
that Spohr’s trills, which form an important part of the
material, positively buzz with life.
The score of the Tenth Symphony was only published in 2006 -
it had received its premiere in New York in 1998! Spohr himself
had decided the work was not worthy of his previous efforts;
he got as far as rehearsing it with the Kassel orchestra. What
is interesting is that Spohr here is attempting a new concise
mode of expression. A mere 26 minutes in duration, it is a model
of restraint. In addition, it is the first of Spohr’s
symphonies to be scored for valved brass instruments. He also
includes a tuba in the line-up. The effect of the first movement
is that of a master who has honed down his work, and the piece
is all the stronger for it. The Larghetto makes no great
demands on the listener. A seven-minute mini-ocean of repose,
Shelley and his forces lavish all their affection on it. Particular
mention should go to the eminently musical solo clarinettist.
The playful silences of the Scherzo, along with the rustic
woodwind pairings, all offer pleasure. Shelley finds rhythmic
swing here; for the Trio, the word that springs to mind is “fluent”,
both in terms of Spohr’s writing and for the performance.
The freshness of the finale is beautifully caught.
In short, a fine, musical, superbly engineered disc that guarantees
see also review from Rob