This disc, originally recorded and issued as long ago as 1979, still sounds very well and there is no need to have any doubts about the recorded quality. The Nash Ensemble were a talented group of musicians, the precise make-up of the group depending on the music to be played / recorded. That variation applies to this disc of Spohr's nonet and octet.
The nonet requires flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass. The octet requires clarinet, violin, two violas, cello and double bass plus two horns. The players involved in both works are Antony Pay (clarinet, John Pigneguy (horn), Marcia Crayford (violin), Brian hawkins (viola), Christopher van Kempen (cello) and Rodney Slatford (double bass). Marcia Crayford is Christopher van Kempen's wife.
Spohr (1784-1859) was a very popular composer during his lifetime and turned his hand to writing skilfully to many genres of composition. These include 11 operas, 15 violin concertos, clarinet concertos, symphonies and a great deal of chamber music as on this particular disc.
His music is undemanding to listen to but, being well written, it sustains the attention throughout. It was therefore ideal entertainment for people who found Beethoven too avant garde for example. These particular works were the result of a commission from Tost who also commissioned work from Haydn. Essentially the music is primarily lyrical with only minimal interest in developing themes or such ideas. Consequently it found a ready audience in people who favoured music as more for pleasant and tuneful entertainment rather than as a stimulating intellectual exercise. Both the nonet and the octet are of this type and still provide a ready source of such pleasant entertainment. Spohr, remember, was a highly experienced and prolific composer of some skill and those virtues travel well through time.
I would suggest that this disc therefore, is deserving of attention from anyone willing to explore the rewarding musical byways that ran parallel to the early Romantics. The music is expertly played and well recorded.
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I had the gatefold LP of this when I was a teenager and admired the performances enormously. Now, having just passed the milestone age of 50, I find it again and there performances are just as radiant as I remember them. Superb playing from all, perhaps particularly Antony Pay on clarinet and John Pigneguy and Anthony Halstead on horns. Now, as then, I still ask why Spoor is so under-rated.