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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67616
Recording details: September 2006
Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
Produced by Ben Connellan
Engineered by Michael Rast
Release date: September 2007
Total duration: 30 minutes 39 seconds

'Howard Shelley and his skilled orchestra are attentive to the music's lyrical charm and colourful wind scoring' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The playing is generous in energy and rhythmic impetus, not to mention elegant, and the lines are beautifully wrought. The performances make as good a case for Spohr’s music as do the annotations' (Fanfare, USA)

'The first two symphonies … are well worth an airing, and their finales in particular have a great deal of life … Howard Shelley's direction is highly effective' (Manchester Evening News)

'The Grand Concert Overture (1819) here receives its first recording. It is sonorous, spirited and beguiling … an enjoyable entrée into the symphonies recorded here as well as signalling the fine performances and sound to be found on this Hyperion release. These works show both ‘muscle’ and lyricism … Spohr’s construction and scoring is of a high order; the music trips lightly and curvaceously. The Second Symphony (1820) begins in dramatic fashion, the ‘introduction’ proving to be integral to the movement as a whole, its unhurried demeanour embracing dignity and lightness. The movements that follow once again contain ideas that make immediate attraction – a warm-toned Larghetto, a scurrying scherzo and a mercurial finale … there are ten symphonies by Spohr. Maybe Hyperion intends to record the cyclethe label has previously championed Spohr's chamber music)? It would be welcome … his music is genuinely enjoyable and not without novelty and Howard Shelley and this fine orchestra certainly have its measure' (ClassicalSource.com)

'Tout en souplesse, la lecture de Shelley supplante forcément celle d'Alfred Walter, par ses tempos plus amples et plus contrastés. En espérant que d'autres chefs donneront bientôt à ces musiques plus des rythmes et de relief, on trouvera ici une honnête version d'attente donc, accompagnée d'un superbe Caspar David Friedrich en couverture et d'un excellent texte de présentation' (Diapason, France)

Symphony No 2 in D minor, Op 49
composer
March 1820; first performed in London on 10 April 1820

Allegro  [12'09]
Larghetto  [6'16]
Scherzo: Presto  [4'43]
Finale: Vivace  [7'31]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
By the time of the second symphony Spohr had moved on stylistically. The direct influences to be found in the first have gone, except for the Haydnesque jokey second theme in the finale. In the first movement Spohr steers clear of the conventional slow introduction; instead, he opts for a fast introduction in the main Allegro tempo of the movement before the arrival of the first-subject proper on the strings, a passionate theme tinged with melancholy and typical of Spohr. When the second subject is reached the music gives the impression of being at a slower tempo, brought about by Spohr’s use of longer note values for the theme. However, the rhythmic accompaniment in the strings reminds us that this is still Allegro. The final part of this second subject is extracted from the symphony’s introduction. This introductory material and the first subject are combined imaginatively in the development which shows Spohr’s mastery of harmony and modulation at its best. The introduction returns as if heading for a D minor recapitulation, but there is a neat sidestep to the first subject, pianissimo, to start the reprise in the major.

The Larghetto in B flat major contrasts a gently lyrical and richly harmonized melody with a powerful G minor section featuring prominent trumpet and drum outbursts which eventually lead to a grand climax. Then the B flat music returns to wind things down to a peaceful conclusion. There follows a highly individual Presto scherzo in D minor with little trace of Beethoven’s influence. Spohr keeps the dynamics subdued for some time before a sudden flare-up in the major releases the tension. The ländler-like trio in D major gains extra variety from its presentation. In both sections the theme is first heard on winds and timpani only while the repeats are restricted to the strings. When the trio returns after the scherzo has been reprised, the full orchestra joins together to present the theme. There is an impressive coda which, in miniature, even looks ahead to Bruckner’s scherzos.

Although Spohr keeps the D major Vivace finale light in tone, he avoids eighteenth-century stereotypes. After a call to attention, a ‘travelling’ theme is launched which points forward to such finales as those in the D major symphonies of Brahms and Dvorvák. Haydn pops up in the second subject which elicits more humour in the development and there is a short but vigorous coda.

from notes by Keith Warsop © 2007
Chairman, Spohr Society of Great Britain

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