Spohr: Septet in A minor, Op. 147; Nonet in F, Op. 31

COMPOSERS: Spohr
LABELS: ASV Gold
ALBUM TITLE: Spohr
WORKS: Septet in A minor, Op. 147;
Nonet in F, Op. 31

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PERFORMER: Ensemble 360

CATALOGUE NO: GLD 4026
Violin virtuoso, composer, conductor, teacher, deviser of the operatic leitmotiv, promoter of the violinist’s chin rest and the conductor’s baton, Louis Spohr (1784-1859) counted as one of the greats during his lifetime, yet, despite the fond remembrances of both Wagner and Brahms,

soon fell into prolonged neglect.

Among the handful of ensemble works that have regained a toehold in the repertoire, the Nonet in F, Op. 31 (1811), invites comparison with both the Beethoven Septet and the Schubert Octet in its civilized moods and resourceful exploitation of a mixed line-up. Yet its amiable ideas lack Beethoven’s incisiveness, while their garrulous working out is unclouded by Schubertian ambiguity. Forty years on, his idiom in the Septet, Op. 47 (1853), is a touch more chromatic with the passing influence of Mendelssohn, but is otherwise little changed.

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The Nash Ensemble rescued these scores in lovingly phrased and spaciously recorded readings over 25 years ago. Now comes a more up-front coupling by the young Sheffield-based Ensemble 360. The acoustic is dryer – a room rather than a hall – and tempos are on the whole brisker, even impatient in the opening stretch of the Nonet. Where the Nash emphasized expression, Ensemble 360 underline the music’s inventiveness – occasionally to incessant effect. Yet the playing is never less than accomplished and this new release will give a lot of pleasure. Bayan Northcott