Rare revival for Spohr oratorio

Roderic Dunnett, Church Times, 27.03.2015

THE newly renamed Oxford Harmonic Choir (formerly Society)is one of those satisfying large ensembles that shows both imagination and discernment in presenting works of the 18th or 19th century which have, for whatever cause, dropped out of the repertoire. In June, they will perform Mirjams Siegesgesang — Miriam 3 Victory Song, a work by Schubert celebrating the escape of the Israelites from Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army: a joyous celebration of victory, set alongside the now more familiar St Cecilia Mass of Gounod.


Their latest offering was to present at Oxford Town Hall an oratorio by the now almost forgotten Louis (Ludwig) Spohr, one of the most important figures on the cusp of the Classical and Romantic eras.


Spohr (1784-1859), who spent his later llife in Kassel as court conductor, was initially best known as a conductor and virtuoso violinist - as a vital and attractive performance here of his Violin Concerto No. 8 (he composed 18) by the Ukrainian-born violinist Dima Tkachenko, demonstrated. Spohr’s writing often recalls Mendelssohn - or perhaps it is the other way round; some of the interplay between the lyrical violin line and pizzicato lower strings, an evocative emergence by the violas, and the vital cadenza that introduces the last movement were telling moments in this expressive performance....