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 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 ****
[Shelley] is at his most sympathetic in Autumn, at home in its atmosphere of hunting and social camaraderie. Gramophone