Even from today's vantage point, when at least two cycles of
Spohr's symphonies are complete or are in hand, this collection has
its virtues. It looks back half a century to a world where Spohr was
regarded as specialist, exotic or stuffy Victoriana. As for his symphonies
they were at that time still gathering new layers of dust in various
libraries and archives.
These recordings derive from Decca, Oiseau Lyre and Saga long-players.
They have made the migration to digital courtesy of Paul Arden-Taylor. The
music and artists are well documented by Alto regular, James Murray.
We have seen this performance of the Octet before; not least in the Decca Legends
series of yore. Here it positively glows in the
hands of an ensemble that includes two Boskovskys: Willi (violin) and Alfred
(clarinet). The instrumental lines emerge and converge in agreeable
collective refinement and with individual character not sacrificed. All
flows smoothly and inevitably - yet leaves not a rack behind in the first
movement. It flows along but leaves no lasting impression. The second
movement has more memorable material while its successor with its variation
on a Handelian theme has Schubertian brilliance and dignity. The finale is a
conversation in excellence with the French horn nicely sketched in.
The Clarinet Concerto is another classic, here played by a doyen of the
clarinet: Gervase de Peyer. This is in the same territory as the two Weber
concertos: Beethovenian at times and having the effect of the sun observed
through tolerant clouds. The soloist, Decca gentry if ever there was one,
balances wildness and smooth display. I mentioned Weber; he rated Spohr
Lastly we come to a Saga retrieval in which two New York-based ensembles
used by the label in those long-distant days come together. The reading has
unruly life and individuality but the sound is not of the very finest. No
reason to hold back, though, even if the recording does suffer from some
slight close-up distortion.
An enjoyable insight into the early days of the Spohr revival on disc.