Howard Griffiths / NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Louis Spohr: Symphonies 3 & 10

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More a figure of the Romantic era than of the Classical, Louis Spohr nonetheless was a musical conservative, despite being a contemporary of such daring visionaries as Beethoven, Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner. On the surface, Spohr's tendencies toward Sturm und Drang in the two symphonies and the overture presented here should put him among the Romantics; yet the formal constraints and stylistic influences that pervade these works mark them as backward-looking, specifically to the Classicism of Haydn and Mozart; the occasional touches of Romantic coloration in this music are little more advanced than Weber. This first volume of Howard Griffiths' series of Spohr's symphonies on CPO starts the cycle off rather peculiarly with the Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, and the unfinished Symphony No. 10 in E flat major, WoO. 8, with the Grand Concert Overture in F major, WoO. 1, included as filler -- a rather odd way to begin things, but presumably one that will make sense when all the titles appear. Yet fans of Spohr's music will accept the symphonies any way they come, and considering their scarcity on CD, having them in the vibrant and spacious hybrid SACD format is a treat. The performances by Griffiths and the NDR Radio Philharmonic are technically flawless and expressively spot on, and the right balance of grace and robustness is struck in the playing. Spohr's characteristic lyricism and playfulness come through in these engaging performances, and even the rather formulaic overture is enjoyable for its elegant Mozartian melodies and development.

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