* LOUIS SPOHR: String Sextet in C Major Op. 140; Nonet in F Major Op. 31 – Camerata Freden – Tacet Real Surround Sound DVD-Audio DVD D172, 59:33 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
We don’t usually mention the techie stuff first in reviews, but since Tacet is one of the few labels still offering DVD-Audio format discs, and they have such a unique approach to surround sound, this seems appropriate. Rather than having the surround channels convey just hall ambiance, Tacet believes in taking advantage of the options that hi-res surround offers over standard stereo, and with what they call Real Surround Sound they place the instrumentalists in chamber ensembles in a circle around the listener with a five-channel speaker system. (They also have Moving Real Surround options on some of their discs in which the players physically move around.)
Though there are many universal disc players out there now, there are also more models (both stereo and multichannel) which play only SACDs and not DVD-As as well. However, this one – unlike most DVD-As – has no Dolby 5.0 option or video display. It is strictly five-channel lossless MLP surround – if you have only the front stereo channels connected you will only hear the instruments at or near those two speakers – a seriously out-of-balance presentation! For the Sextet violins 1 & 2 are at the front left and right, the two cellos are at your sides, and the two violas are at the rear left and right. For the Nonet the nine instruments are arrayed in a circle around the listener – the oboe at center front, flanked by the flute and clarinet, with the cello and doublebass at the far rear.
Now to the music. In the early 19th century Louis Spohr was considered one of the most brilliant composer-musicians. But since his death in 1859 he has been pretty much ignored. For most listener Spohr would probably rhyme with bore. The truth is that he wrote some very charming chamber music, and in the case of this Sextet and Nonet, created two milestones of the particular genre. His music hovers between the classic and romantic periods, has rich harmonies and can be quite emotional for the period. It is often cast in an optimistic mood and full of good humor.
Spohr’s Sextet of 1848 is primarily lyrical, with a strong flow of melody. Its Scherzo and Finale are linked together into a single movement. The Nonet of 1813 is a sort of Viennese divertimento with a delicate nocturne-like Adagio as its third movement of four. Both works are of a joyous nature and provide delightfully different listening in Tacet’s Real Surround Sound. The skilled Camerata Freden have made two other Real Surround Sound DVD-As for the label: The Beethoven Septet Op. 20 and Octet Op. 103, as well as the Schubert Octet in F Op. Posth. 166.
— John Sunier
The Birth Of Bop – Craft Recordings
Craft Recordings releases a re-mastered 10” vinyl box set of quintessential Savoy Records bebop music.