Louis Spohr's musical revival gathers more momentum with this third disc from Hyperion. During his lifetime, Spohr was one of the most significant and important composers to come out of Germany. In fact he was one of the leading figures in the first half of the nineteenth century. Apart from composition, he also excelled as violinist, conductor, teacher and organiser. He was so popular, his music was loved and played by thousands but after his death in 1859, aged 75 his star waned completely and he was almost completely forgotten. In more recent times, he has enjoyed a most deserved revival not only from Hyperion, but from other labels as well, particularly Marco Polo (all his symphonies) and Naxos.
This disc is full of exquisite, well crafted music that is really appealing. For Clarinet aficionados, Spohr provides plenty of pyrotechnics in the solo parts without overtaxing the soloist. Concertos #1 & 2 were written for the clarinet virtuoso, Johann Simon Hermstedt in 1808 and 1810 respectively. Spohr met Hermstedt at Gotha in the autumn of 1808 when the composer was occupying the post of Court Director, an appointment given to Spohr when he was only 21 years old. The two became instant friends and Hermstedt was so taken in by the works, particularly #1, that instead of insisting for modifications to what seemed unplayable demands, he adapted and expanded his instrument to suit the music, thus bringing about important changes in the range and flexibility of the clarinet, expanding it from five to thirteen keys.
The disc also includes 2 other short but no less delightful works; the Potpourri Op. 80 and the Variations in B Flat Major, all played with dexterity, gracefulness and lightness of touch by the clarinettist Michael Collins. This is his first solo Hyperion recording and from what I have heard then I am looking forward to his next. How about Concertos #3 & 4 to complete the set.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech