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Louis Spohr (1784-1859)

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Spohr & Onslow: Piano Sonatas

Spohr & Onslow: Piano Sonatas


Onslow:

Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 2

Six Pièces

Toccata in C major, Op. 6

Spohr:

Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op. 125

Rondoletto in G major, Op. 149


Howard Shelley continues his appraisal of a composer who in his lifetime was classed with Mozart and Beethoven, and enjoyed international fame and admiration. Shelley is a master of the Classical–Romantic style and in his hands the music of Spohr, heard very little today, reveals a freshness and excitement which is utterly beguiling.

Spohr’s Piano Sonata and Rondoletto are paired with works by George Onslow, Spohr’s exact contemporary. Both composers wrote very little piano music and this release comprises all their major works for the instrument. Again, music to charm and delight is rediscovered through Shelley’s expert performances.

“Shelley plays this music with consummate artistry, making light of its technical difficulties and investing it with all the Romantic charm and ardour it needs. It's captured in excellent quality sound.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2012 *****

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Hyperion - CDA67947

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Spohr - Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

Spohr - Clarinet Concertos Nos. 1 & 2


Spohr:

Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 26

Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat, Op. 57


‘An outstanding disc, excellently recorded’ (BBC Music Magazine)

“…the first two of his four concertos for the clarinettist Johann Simon Hermstedt… well worth hearing: they’re imaginatively constructed and full of graceful melody, as well as being true virtuoso showpieces. Michael Collins effortlessly surmounts all their technical difficulties... with incisive attack, wonderfully liquid arpeggios and complete control even up to (sounding) top B flats...” BBC Music Magazine, June 2005 *****

“The memorable opening C minor theme of the First Clarinet Concerto (1809) has a Beethovenian contour, yet the solo roulades which follow suggest the minor key is not to be taken too seriously.
The work, like its companion, was commissioned by the clarinet virtuoso Johann Hermstedt, who adapted his instrument for the music, adding five extra keys! It is a fine piece with a lovely Adagio to remind us that Mozart's Quintet was Spohr's inspiration. The charming finale lollops along engagingly.
The Second Concerto, written a year later, is distinctly galant in the jaunty Hummelian march theme which dominates the first movement. The eloquent Adagio is unashamedly operatic, with characteristic turns in the melodic line, but the highlight is the Polacca finale, opening neatly with a solo timpani flourish answered by the horns.
This gives Michael Collins wonderful opportunities for a spirited bravura display that invites a smile of pleasure, as do his fluid, lyrical line and lovely tone and phrasing throughout.
The Potpourri opens invitingly on the horns but is no medley. Instead it centres on two themes, the second with a set of variations, offering more bravura fireworks, clearly relished here. The Variations are very much in the same vein. An outstanding disc, excellently recorded.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“an artist of advanced musicianship allied to absolute technical command - a combination that's the preserve of few.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2012

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Spohr - Clarinet Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Spohr - Clarinet Concertos Nos. 3 & 4


Spohr:

Clarinet Concerto No. 3 in F minor, WoO 19

Clarinet Concerto No. 4 in E minor, WoO 20


Michael Collins (clarinet)

Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Robin O’Neill

This disc is a long-awaited sequel to Hyperion’s disc of Spohr’s Clarinet Concertos Nos 1 & 2, recorded by the same forces. It was at Gotha in the autumn of 1808 that Spohr met the clarinet virtuoso Johann Simon Hermstedt, and the two men hit it off straight away. Spohr immediately began work on his first clarinet concerto. Hermstedt was so taken by the work that—rather than insisting on the composer modifying some of his more outlandish, and unplayable, demands—he adapted and expanded his instrument to suit the music, thus bringing about important developments in the range and flexibility of the clarinet, expanding it from five keys to thirteen. Of the four concertos Spohr wrote for Hermstedt, the Third is the most overtly virtuosic, with a fiery restless energy supporting grand, sweeping themes of real distinction. The Fourth ranks among Spohr’s finest compositions.

“Michael Collins’s artistry is what counts, for Louis Spohr’s music in these clarinet concertos never rises beyond the pleasant. The highlight of No 3 is the slow movement, treated to some of Collins’s most limpid tones, and Spanish touches in No 4 add colour to some dour 19th-century furniture. Spohr eschews cadenzas, but plenty of virtuosity is packed into Collins’s dexterity and kaleidoscopic tones. More sparkle from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra would help.” The Times, 2nd May 2008 ***

“Collins completes his recordings of these delightful concertos with the contrasting works presented here, both in minor keys (F and E, respectively). The F minor is the more brilliant of the two, and Collins dazzles like a bel canto diva in the pyrotechnic leaps, trills and runs, while he lavishes his rich tone, phenomenal breath control and deeply satisfying expressive insights on the E minor.” Sunday Times, 27th April 2008 ****

“Collins plays with an inspirational touch, too, and no more so than in the charming and witty "Rondo al espagnol" that rounds off No 4. Beautifully balanced sound, making this an exceptionally attractive disc.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2008

“Michael Collins repeats the success of his disc of Nos 1 and 2 with elegantly phrased melodies, immaculate passagework and wondrously even trills. The Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Robin O'Neill again provide alert support, and the recording is outstanding.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 *****

Building a Library

Highly Recommended - November 2009

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Hyperion - CDA67561

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Spohr: Double Quartets Nos. 1-4

Spohr: Double Quartets Nos. 1-4


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Spohr: Octet & Nonet

Spohr: Octet & Nonet


Spohr:

Nonet in F major, Op. 31

Octet in E major, Op. 32


Building a Library

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Hyperion - CDA66699

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Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2


Spohr:

Grand Concert Overture in F major, WoO1 (1819)

Symphony No 1 in E flat major, Op. 20 (1811)

Symphony No 2 in D minor, Op. 49 (1820)


“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

“Howard Shelley and his skilled orchestra are attentive to the music’s lyrical charm and colourful wind scoring” The Telegraph

Building a Library

Highly Recommended - November 2009

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Hyperion Howard Shelley Spohr Symphonies - CDA67616

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Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6

Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6


Spohr:

Der Fall Babylons, WoO63

Symphony No. 3, Op. 78 in E Minor

Symphony No. 6 in G Major, Op. 116 (Historical)


Howard Shelley’s enchanting series of Spohr’s symphonies continues to inspire interest and delight in this underrated composer.

By the time Spohr came to write his Third Symphony he was established in the top rank of contemporary composers. It is a richer, more romantic work than its two predecessors, both through its orchestration and the more plastic quality of its themes with their stronger flavour of poetic fantasy. It also moves a step further away from the classical ideal and nearer to a romantic freedom of form.

The Sixth Symphony was written in an entirely new form—each movement in a different historical style—which baffled contemporaries. Today we accept compositions which work with musical styles from earlier periods such as Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana, Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella or Richard Strauss’ Dance Suite after Couperin but when Spohr pioneered the process with his ‘Historical’ Symphony contemporary listeners and critics completely failed to comprehend this concept. But it is in fact a very effective work. The styles imitated are filtered through Spohr’s imagination so giving the symphony its enduring fascination and providing it with a phoenix-like attribute of revival after each critical cremation.

“Howard Shelley has a strong feeling for the varieties and subtleties of Spohr's symphonic style...[he] steers the necessary course between parody and genuine appreciation, and as a fill-up includes a first recording of the vigorous overture The Fall of Babylon.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2010

“[The Sixth] is a wonky old piece, but it reflects Spohr's Mendelssohnian fascination with earlier music and his complete mastery of form. Also here is the poetic third, which represents a step away from the classical ideal towards a freer romantic horizon” The Observer, 21st February 2010

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Hyperion Howard Shelley Spohr Symphonies - CDA67788

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Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5

Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5


Spohr:

Symphony No 4 in F major 'Die Weihe der Töne', Op 86

Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 102

Das befreite Deutschland, WoO64


Symphony No 4 was quickly acclaimed as the composer’s symphonic masterpiece after its first performance. It is a forward-looking, programmatic work based on a poem by Carl Pfeiffer, ‘The Consecration of Sounds’. Unusually, it features a slow finale, and in this way was an important example to future composers including Tchaikovsky and Mahler. Symphony No 5 is a deeply felt work, pouring out pent-up emotions from dramatic events in the composer’s life at the time of writing with real expressive power.

The disc also features the overture to a cantata Das befreite Deutschland (‘Germany liberated’), composed following Napoleon’s disastrous defeat at the battle of Leipzig in October 1813.

In this second volume of Spohr’s symphonies, Howard Shelley and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana continue their exploration of this enjoyable and little-known repertoire. Formerly one of the most significant personalities in nineteenth-century German music, Spohr’s symphonies were as popular as those of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven until he fell from fashion in the later part of the nineteenth century.

“Here is a follow-up to the recording of Louis Spohr’s first two symphonies that I praised last October … Shelley gets both delicacy and passion from the excellent orchestra” Classic FM Magazine

“The Fifth Symphony … carries a weightier burden of grief in the wake of some personal losses … especially in the Larghetto, a dark movement beautifully scored with low strings and sombre brass … Howard Shelley and his orchestra give it a fresh and vivid performance” International Record Review

“Spohr the symphonist repays the attention this disc merits; his programmatic fourth symphony features a slow finale that set a precedent for Tchaikovsky and Mahler, while Shelley and his fine Italian players capture the expressive power of the turbulent fifth” The Observer

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Hyperion Howard Shelley Spohr Symphonies - CDA67622

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Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 9

Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 9


Spohr:

Symphony No. 9 in B minor, Op. 143 (The Seasons)

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 121 'The Earthly and Divine in Human Life'

Introduzione in D major, WoO5

Festmarsch in D major, WoO3


We talk of the nine symphonies of Beethoven and Bruckner but what about the ten of Spohr? Howard Shelley and the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conclude their survey of his symphonies with two that push the boundaries of the genre itself. Both Nos 7 and 9 are programmatic works, something that Spohr along with Berlioz did much to champion. In the Seventh, titled ‘The earthly and divine in human life’ and inspired by a holiday in Switzerland, he uses not one but two orchestras to great colouristic effect. His Ninth explores that perennial favourite theme of composers from Vivaldi to Glazunov, the Seasons (though Spohr starts with winter rather than spring). As if that were not enough, Howard Shelley also offers the premiere recordings of a brief, powerful Introduzione and a triumphant, at times almost Rossini-ish, Festmarsch.

“The music itself is pleasant enough, if unremarkable, sometimes echoing Beethoven (the Pastoral Symphony especially in the Ninth), and showing affinities with Mendelssohn and Schumann elsewhere; the performances are first rate, and the solo horn playing is glorious.” The Guardian, 1st March 2012 ***

“[Shelley] is at his most sympathetic in Autumn, at home in its atmosphere of hunting and social camaraderie” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“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.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2012 ****

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Hyperion Howard Shelley Spohr Symphonies - CDA67939

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Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 10

Spohr: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 10


Spohr:

Der Zweikampf mit der Geliebten, WoO50

Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 137

Symphony No. 10 WoO 8 in E flat major


Howard Shelley’s fascinating discs of Spohr’s symphonies with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana have reignited interest in a composer who was once the most important in Europe, and particularly so in England, where he was worshipped by all of musical society.

Spohr’s Eighth Symphony is one of the composer’s more conservative experiments with the form. The Tenth is the composer’s final symphony and remained unpublished – languishing in the former Prussian State Library in Berlin for many years – until 2006. Both works bring unexpected pleasures. This is the penultimate volume of a series which as a whole is an important historical document of musical taste.

“These performances - crisp, clear and affectionate - are well recorded and make for pleasing listening, not least Spohr's symphonic swan-song...Anyone new to Spohr's symphonies would do well to start here.” International Record Review, January 2011

“there are attractive and characteristic touches [in the Tenth], and there is something affecting about how the old Romantic sensationalist turned at the end for sustenance back to Haydn...The recording is clear and lucid, and does justice to the excellent Overture” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011

“These are clear, beautifully judged performances, and Shelley and his orchestra plead every case for these works, from the portentous opening Adagio of the Eighth Symphony, to its fleet-footed Trio...you'll find no better performances than these: expertly judged and well argued by Shelley and his team. Revealing and worth exploring.” Classic FM Magazine, March 2011 ****

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Hyperion Howard Shelley Spohr Symphonies - CDA67802

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