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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

Listening Group Selection #2: Louis Spohr, Symphony #6 in G, Op. 116

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Showing 1-25 of 38 posts in this discussion
Posted on May 2, 2012, 6:16:23 PM PDT
mojoworking says:

I'm a bit late to the party but I have finally recovered from a 4 week bug which has been preventing me from listening to music, so here's a quick stab at a review. I am writing this 'blind' without the Amazon thread on a long-haul flight, so apologies for any repetition of thoughts and ideas expressed before.

First movement - for me the most enjoyable movement, mainly because I feel it didn't outstay it's welcome (yikes). Semi-Baroque in style, but not particularly reminiscent of Bach or Handel.

Second movement - definitely outstayed its welcome unfortunately. In that sense it was very un-Haydnesque and un-Mozartian as their works have enough genius and economy of effort to retain my attention. I didn't feel that there was any development in the music and the final section just felt like recycled material of the opening section.

Third movement - sounds like early Beethoven, at a stretch! I feel it owes more to Mozart and so defies the naming of the movement, but there was at least some development in the music.

Final movement - this is the movement for me that most closely resembles the period it is supposed to represent. Sounds like a Rossini overture which makes it's placing in the work seem rather odd. Enjoyable with enough invention to keep interest.

In summary, it's an interesting work with a premise of merit. Unfortunately it largely fails to live up to expectations because the individual movements are not up to the standard of the master composers which they represent. It's a work which is a novelty/curiosity a best, and to which I can't see myself returning very often. If anything, it made me want to listen to some Haydn or Beethoven - if that was Spohr's intention he has very much succeeded!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 9:36:33 PM PDT
KenOC says:
Lark, I speculated on the performance above; "I wonder how much this had to do with the performance? I suspect there were plenty of passed-by opportunities to spice things up a bit -- stronger accents, more exaggerated dynamics, a generally more aggressive approach. Maybe the conductor was texting while he worked?"

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 9:13:27 PM PDT
Well, Spohr's symphony just went through a meat grinder via the classical music community :s

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 8:57:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2012, 9:22:55 PM PDT
I feel this symphony is better than it's being performed here. That's a problem with some of the icons of a former period in history: getting a top-flight performance by a first-rate orchestra, and the performance of the 1st movement of his 6th sounds tired and draggy here rather than more sprightly and lively like I believe Spohr intended.

I've enjoyed delving into the life of Mr. Spohr and his Symphony. As part of the revivalist movement he and Mendelssohn were part of, I believe they were both being modern and progressive by looking back to the past at Bach and others who may have been publicly under appreciated for their genius, while of course not having been forgotten by the usual suspects of Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin. From Wiki: "Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognized as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century." I also feel that Spohr may have eventually gotten trapped in his reverence for the past and ultimately it had an adverse effect on his own compositions and his reputation, where he eventually became regarded as more of a period figure.

Still, there's a considerable amount that could be said on his behalf and why he was so popular in his day. I love his accessible and skilled orchestrations. I can easily imagine how enjoyable it would have been at the time to attend one of his performances. The Symphony seems to be written right in the middle sweet part of the orchestra. So there's this immediate appeal that I believe contributed to his great popularity, and he was not so literal in his reverence for Bach, Handel, Beethoven and others that he was trying to write music that was a literal representation - where his romanticism seemed to come into play. I find his music highly pleasing, imaginative and undemanding in a good way, and I'm glad to know of this and other works. (I've been enjoying his 6th as I write this).

I try to hear these kinds of lesser known works from the standpoint of how the audiences may have heard them during Spohr's life-time. The 4th movement sounds the weakest to me because of its obvious repetitive explosive effects ala Beethoven, but I still feel that Spohr orchestrated it attractively and well. - Lark ♬

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 3:11:44 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012, 7:30:27 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 2:48:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2012, 2:49:29 PM PDT
KenOC says:
"I am guessing it would have been a long time before I had encountered it myself (if ever)."

I am guessing that it'll be a long time before I encounter it again!

Seriously March, thanks for a good and interesting pick (the pick, not the music). I think we'll continue to see a lot of variety in these discussions. BTW did you ever tell us YOUR opinion of the piece?

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 2:35:44 PM PDT
Gwac says:

Although I didn't like it (and it remains unknown to what degree this is due to the performance), I am happy to have heard Spohr's 6th. I am guessing it would have been a long time before I had encountered it myself (if ever).

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 11:25:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2012, 11:27:15 AM PDT
carnola says:
Fantasia on Themes from "Viva Las Vegas"?
Rhapsody on "That's All Right, Mama"?

Yes, march, nice pick! I've heard little Spohr, just some clarinet concertos, so it was good to explore the fringes of the repertoire.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 11:10:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2012, 11:12:28 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
Ken is a long time fan of Elvis... Maybe that's next? :-)

March: it has been A very interesting and good choice for a discussion. Well picked!

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 10:45:47 AM PDT
carnola says:
I, for one, am hoping it will be the Chopin tone poem with cannons or canons you mentioned on the other thread!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 10:42:07 AM PDT
KenOC says:
Coming up shortly.....a surprise perhaps.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 10:29:48 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012, 7:32:17 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2012, 12:52:28 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:

My feeling about the Louis Spohr, Symphony #6 in G, Op. 116 (1840). I listened to the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra performance.

Caveat - I am not an intellectual re: Music. I want the music to speak or NOT speak directly to me I rarely read linear notes BEFORE listening to a performance hence I was in no position to judge

Here goes:

MVMT 1- Melodic beauty and and interesting re-do of melodies
MVMT 2- Rather rambling .
MVMT 3- Pleasant but nothing earth shattering.
MVMT 4- The most pleasant with conisistent fire.

I am most familiar with Spohr's Violin works which I enjoy very much.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2012, 12:14:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 26, 2012, 12:15:51 PM PDT
DavidRFoss says:
Oh... it is the Octet with the theme from Handel. My bad.

I read the liner notes for Symphony #6 and saw references to a theme from his "famous Nonet" and just assumed it the one with the Handel variations. I didn't double check. Sorry.

Checking now, I do have the Nash Ensemble's Nonet/Octet recording.

Posted on Apr 26, 2012, 11:28:18 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 26, 2012, 12:05:06 PM PDT
KenOC says:
In thinking back to my impressions of the 6th symphony, the overall effect was...lifeless. I wonder how much this had to do with the performance? I suspect there were plenty of passed-by opportunities to spice things up a bit -- stronger accents, more exaggerated dynamics, a generally more aggressive approach.

Maybe the conductor was texting while he worked?

I have a different performance and will give it a listen today.

Added: Oops, it's the same recording! I read a very long Amazon review of it, which says of the 6th: "All that could have been fun and entertaining and a harbinger of post-modernism and Schnittke, but the problem is that Spohr doesn't even write good pastiche. In fact it is appalling..." My review is kind by comparison!

Posted on Apr 26, 2012, 10:49:10 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012, 7:36:41 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2012, 10:14:03 AM PDT
KenOC says:
Octet, Nonet? Maybe one of each?

Spohr: Nonet / Octet

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2012, 9:56:42 AM PDT
DavidRFoss says:
march says:
I feel like I have to put in a word for good old Louis. Spohr may be a minor composer, even by the standards of a second-tier figure like Hummel. But his Octet for winds and strings is memorable and delightful, as are some of his concertos (for clarinet especially).
I believe its a Nonet and its for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass. There's a nice take on Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith in one of the movements.

Of course, Spohr was a minor composer, but at they can't be all major composers. :-) Its fun to mix in the works of Spohr, Hummel, Moscheles and Field from time to time to see what other composers of this era were doing. Otherwise its all Beethoven, Schubert & Mendelssohn all the time.

This is clearly not as inspired as the other 'neo' works described below, but its fairly notable how much it pre-dates all of those. Other than transcriptions, composers generally didn't write work this backward-looking until much later.

Posted on Apr 26, 2012, 4:33:03 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012, 7:37:12 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 26, 2012, 2:47:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 26, 2012, 2:52:35 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
I have not much to add. (ken said "opens like a bad opera"- good one!)

As i stated earlier, I don't particularly like the piece. I think it's an unsuccessful exercise, like many have stated. Spohr himself has a huge output, none of which is regularly performed today, and I think rightly so- he is not among the best composes of his time (not among the second- best either IMHO).

Compare to some really inspired "allusions" to older periods: Prokofiev's 1st, which for all it's tongue in cheekness is a real hydanesque masterpiece, or mozart great mass in C minor, in which the Kyrie (and other movementes) alludes to Bach in the most artistic possible way (he just returned from st Thomas where he set for 10 days studying Bach's manuscripts and urtexts, an experience that really had a profound influence on his music from there on), on to Beethoven's grosse fugue in which he, again, profoundly gives a nod and a wink to the old master.
Therer are more examples of much better "older period" inspired works then Spohr's, so I think what he tried to accomplish in his 6th could have been accomplished much better at the hands of a more capable composer.

Edit:Forgot to mention Mahler's attempts, which are uniformly great and highly inspired: the last movement of the 7th is outright hillarios, the 4th is a well disguised but obvious allusion to hyden, and Kindertotenlieder is Mahler's take on Bach (the way I see it. On this one I'm sure not all will agree with me)

Posted on Apr 25, 2012, 7:42:09 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012, 7:37:35 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 25, 2012, 7:05:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012, 9:06:28 PM PDT
KenOC says:
OK, following March's example with Eybler, I gave this symphony a listen and kept real-time notes. I have read nothing on this work.

1st movement -- Yes it sounds like the 1720s, but seen through a Romantic prism. The grave intro, the following fugue... But kind of thick -- Spohr hadn't heard of HIP! Might be better if the fugue were more allegro and less moderato. Is that Gluck in the mid-movement episode??? Good transition back to the fugue. Ends nicely, but a stronger wrap-up would have been good. Bach would have given us one!

2nd movement -- Doesn't sound a lot like the 1780s or Mozart to me. Kind of saccharine. Halfway through now, little to write about...really a single theme treated different ways, and not a striking theme at all. Emotionally monochrome. Sounds more like Schumann, but without his quality of ideas.

3rd movement -- 1810 Beethoven? Not a bit like that, but more interesting than the first two movements. Odd rhythm, doesn't sound like 3/4. This could be something, if it had a little enthusiasm and contrast. Needs some banging about! Did Spohr not have any hair to let down? The scherzo just repeats itself -- he forgot the trio!

4th movement -- 1840, evidently music of the future! Opens like a bad opera. Seems to continue in that vein. Maybe he was thinking of Rossini? Meyerbeer more likely. Some development now, which to Spohr seems to mean repeating himself in the minor with occasional outbursts. Now the usual repetitions leading to the end...

Verdict: A thoroughly second-class work with nothing striking or memorable in it. Inspiration is lacking, and Spohr is (unfortunately) always in tight control of himself. As an exercise in representing various time periods in a symphony, it is not particularly successful.

Posted on Apr 25, 2012, 9:14:54 AM PDT
Can't say I liked it but glad I heard it. I concur with others' assessment that it would have benefitted from non-adherence to strict chronology. After all, THE defining feature of the Classical period was a Sonata-Allegro first mvmt and that sort of heft would have helped the piece overall. Lack of it may be what has it coming off as a suite instead of a symphony.

Posted on Apr 25, 2012, 8:40:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012, 9:22:23 AM PDT
DavidRFoss says:
I just got my hands on a recording. Its OK. Some of the "transitions" are a bit awkward but that's often an issue with the second-tier composers. I liked fugal sections in the baroque movement, I really liked the classical slow movement and the french-romantic bombast finale was a bit unexpected but decent.

I concur about the Scherzo... sounded more like Mendelssohn than Beethoven. And it wasn't a frenetic "Mendelssohnian Scherzo" (Octet, MN'sD) either, it was more of a lilting scherzo. I couldn't figure out what the deal was with the timpani. The liner notes mentioned Beethoven's 7th but that's a red herring. If anything, it sounded like the subtle timpani used at the beginning of the Violin Concerto or at the very end of the Emperor. But neither of those usages are very scherzo-esque. One might have guessed he would have done something like the sforzandos of the scherzo in the 9th but not here.

All in all not a great work by any means, but still interesting and glad I was given the heads up on the piece. Spohr went programmatic/experimental for some of these later symphonies. I see his 9th symphony does "The Seasons" (with Winter first). Is that worth checking out?

Posted on Apr 24, 2012, 5:23:11 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
Have a crazy week, will participate in a couple of days. apologies.
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