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Louis SPOHR (1784–1859)
Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 121 Irdisches und Göttliches im Menschenleben (1841) [33:31]
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 137 (1847) [35:02]
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra/Alfred Walter
rec. House of Arts, Košice, 1991. DDD
NAXOS 8.555527 [68:58]

The symphonies of Brunswicker, Louis Spohr have been accessible on disc for quite some time now. Marco Polo were first on the scene and that label's cycle now steadily reappears - but at upper bargain level - on Naxos. The complete cycles from Hyperion (Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley) and CPO (NDR Radiophilharmonie/Howard Griffiths) are at premium price although the latter can be had as a five-disc set at about £36.00.

The gurgling and winged delights of Symphony No. 7 are fascinatingly put across. The audio perspectives distinguishing "The Earthly and Divine in Human Life" are unmistakably picked out - with a small orchestra (sounding like a large chamber ensemble) representing the ‘divine’. The full orchestra is the advocate for the ‘earthly’. The ear is constantly tickled and made to work in the most vivid way. A panoply of depths and tiers of sound arise in kaleidoscopic activity. The language is a little like a coming together of Mendelssohn and Weber. The imaginative Walter - hardly a well recognised name - keeps things moving. He is not one to go for idle or tick-over. The impression he leaves is that this music matters to him. As for Spohr, it is a measure of the man that he ends this symphony with its grand subject with a gentle glowing downbeat rather than a throbbing classical climax.

The movements of the Seventh bear the titles:-
I: Kinderwelt (The World of Childhood)
II: Zeit der Leidenschaften (The Age of Passion)
III: Endlicher Sieg des Göttlichen (Final Triumph of the Heavenly)

For the 35-minute four-movement Eighth Symphony we have to adjust to a single spatial perspective. After a long first movement, Adagio-Allegro which ends in defiantly roaring rhetoric there's a serene Poco Adagio which could with advantage have been taken by Walter at a slightly steadier slower tempo. The Scherzo Allegretto goes with a swing although there is some lack of total confidence among the woodwind at this point. Once again, as in the middle movement of No. 7, there is a capricious yet aristocratic violin solo. The surgingly pointed finale, with some superbly effervescent pp work for the horns, is a little repetitive; a slight step down from the Seventh in its carousel or roundabout motion.

The present disc is heartily recorded and reports plenty of bejewelled detail. All credit to the control room team: Rudolf Hentšel and Gejza Toperczer - the latter perhaps a relative of the pianist Peter Toperczer?

The insert supplies meticulously detailed and very readable English-only notes by Keith Warsop Chairman of the Spohr Society of Great Britain.

This disc was previously released at full price on Marco Polo 8.223432. Further details of the cycle can be found here.

This is a good and inexpensive introduction to this composer in all his Biedermeier finery. Feel confident about embarking on your orchestral Spohr exploration here. The Seventh is a delight.

Rob Barnett



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