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Nonet in F Major Op.31

Louis Spohr: Nonet in F major, Op.31

Like most composers, particularly those of the nineteenth century who were also virtuosi and had to spend a great deal of time travelling, Spohr was largely dependent on commissions from rich people or musical societies and towns he visited, and his journeys, of course, brought him in contact with many of the great musicians and writers of his time. However, it was wealth that was needed for patronage and whilst in Vienna in 1813 Spohr was visited by a wealthy cloth manufacturer Johann von Tost, who was a great lover of music and to whom Haydn dedicated a set of string quartets. Tost proposed to Spohr that for a suitable sum of money everything he wrote in Vienna should be regarded as Tost's property for a period of three years. He was to receive the original manuscripts and no copies were to be made. At the end of the three years thet would be returned to Spohr and he would then be at liberty to publish them as he pleased. A curious extra condition was that during the three year period the works could only be performed in the presence of Herr von Tost and the scores borrowed from him on each occasion. The whole affair suggests one of Grimm's fairy tales, but, in fact, Spohr agreed and so apparently did Haydn, to similar strange conditions. Spohr's relationship with Tost is given in fascinating detail in his autobiography.

After completing his opera Faust Spohr started work on the first of his works for Tost, a Nonet in F major for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, viola, cello and double bass, to be written he tells us, 'in such a way that each instrument would appear in its true character'. In other words he wrote for wind quintet combined with string quartet and once the work was released by Herr fon Tost it achieved wide popularity and was included in the programme of one of Spohr's first concerts in England, including a number of his works, at the New Argyll Rooms on June 18th, 1820, and the composer tells us he was especially pleased with the reception the audience gave the Nonet. It is in four movements. The first, allegro, is dominated by a short motif heard at the start from the violin. Then follows a scherzo with two trios and a coda, a movement in which one experiences a sensation both of darkenss and peaceful serenity. The adagio is related to the first movement using its opening motif combined with song-like passages of exceptional beauty which are given to solo instruments and heard first from the violin followed by the oboe. The finale, marked vivace, is in sonata rather than the more conventional rondo form and its cheerful vitality makes this one of Spohr's immediately attractive movements, though there are probably many more equal to it in the immense number of his works one never hears.

 

 


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