ALBUM TITLE: Spohr
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 7 & 9
PERFORMER: Orchestra dellz Svizzera Italiana/Howard Shelley
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67939
For Schumann, Spohr’s Symphony No. 7, subtitled ‘The earthly and divine in human life’, was a score ‘flooded with enchantment’. Schumann was particularly struck by its sound, with its striking use of dual forces: a translucent chamber ensemble to depict the notion of the divine, and a full orchestra to represent the earthly. The middle movement – ‘The age of passion’ – features an ornate, gypsy-style main theme for solo violin that harks back to Spohr’s own earlier career as a virtuoso performer; while in the finale it is ultimately the divine that prevails, in a hymn-like conclusion.
The Symphony No. 9 is another programmatic work, this time based around the seasons. Like Haydn’s oratorio, it opens with a depiction of the passage from winter to spring, though, as so often, Spohr’s writing lacks genuine symphonic tension. More successful are the graceful minuet-like second movement, charmingly accompanied by birdsong; and a slow movement that conveys the torpor of summer heat. With this new release, Howard Shelley completes his survey of the ten Spohr symphonies. The performances, like the pieces themselves, are a shade laid-back, but their lack of urgency never seriously detracts from the attractive qualities of this music.