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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Overture, Der Zweikampf mit der Geliebten, WoO 50 (1810) [6:13]
Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 137 (1847) [35:08]
Symphony No. 10 in E flat, WoO 8 (1857) [26:26]
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley.
rec. Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland, 12-16 April 2010 (Overture live)
HYPERION CDA67802 [68:10]

Experience Classicsonline

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 plays magnificently. 

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 much pleasure.
Colin Clarke

see also review from Rob Barnett







































































































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