Hyperion Records

Grand Concert Overture in F major, WoO1
By the time Spohr came to write his Grand Concert Overture in F major in the summer of 1819 his career had passed through some important stages. He was orchestral leader at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien from 1813 to 1815, he made an artistic tour of Italy in 1816–17, and later in 1817 he accepted the post of opera conductor in Frankfurt. But Spohr’s high artistic aims clashed with the down-market and penny-pinching policy of the theatre’s chief director and he resigned in September 1819 with the knowledge that he had under his belt a lucrative contract with London’s Philharmonic Society for the following season.

On 29 November 1819, shortly after his resignation, Spohr’s concert overture was played at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and then it was packed ready for the trip to London where part of his contract with the Philharmonic Society was that he should present them with a new, unpublished orchestral work. The overture was played through in London on 3 April 1820 at the Society’s trial night, at which possible works for future programmes were evaluated. However, there was no available spot for it in the 1820 season so its London premiere was delayed until 21 March 1821. Today Spohr’s still-unpublished autograph score is in the British Library’s Philharmonic Society archive.

The overture’s Adagio molto introduction in the tonic minor includes the germ which provides the main motif of the Allegro vivace. The work is notable for the recapitulation starting with the second subject, something not uncommon in Spohr’s violin concertos but rarer in his symphonic pieces, and it inhabits the same soundworld as the forthcoming second symphony, a work inspired by and written for the Philharmonic Society orchestra.

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

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