SPOHR Louis, Nonet Op.31
In 1813, Louis Spohr moved to Vienna where he became leader of the orchestra at the Theater an der Wien. Haydn’s friend and erstwhile patron Johann Tost gave Spohr an open-ended commission to compose as much chamber music as he liked, and the result was a remarkable group of works including five quartets, two quintets, the Octet and the present Nonet. The Nonet is scored for violin, viola, cello bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn and Tost particularly asked Spohr to bring out the individual colour and character of each instrument. Spohr does just that, and in a tightly controlled structure.
One of the most remarkable features of the Nonet is the close integration of its thematic material: the first four notes of the Allegro dominate the whole of the first movement, and the same motif recurs in the Adagio and, more fleetingly, in the Finale. The Scherzo (in D minor) is permeated by a different rising motif heard right at the start of the movement, and the two Trios provide contrast both in key (D major and B flat) and instrumental textures. The originality of Spohr’s music has been rediscovered in recent years, and his impact on the composers of his own time was immense. The Victorian composer and musicologist Sir George Macfarren wrote that ‘few, if any composers have exercised such influence on their contemporaries.’
© Nigel Simeone