Richard Stöhr Orchestral Music Proves of Interest

In 1905, Richard Stohr wrote, “I am not a modern composer. I do not understand the modern direction, and after it has triumphed the world will not understand me.” I think he sold himself short. Stohr did indeed remain somewhat old-fashioned. 

The rich, post-Romantic music of early 20th Century Vienna remained his inspiration.  As it did for other Jewish composers forced to flee the Nazis, like Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Hans Gal.

But Stohr’s music isn’t hard to understand. And it’s worth knowing — as Toccata Classics has shown. To date, the label has released four volumes of his chamber music, plus a collection of organ works. Stohr was a consummate craftsman, and his orchestral works are gorgeous.

This release features two compositions. One was written before he left Austria, and the other shortly after the end of World War II. The Sinfonia Varsovia directed by Ian Hobson has a fine sound. They play with real warmth, enhancing the Romantic nature of Stohr’s music. 

Agnieszka Kpacka is the soloist for the 1937 Concerto in Old Style. The “old style” here is the Baroque concerto grosso form. To me, this neo-classical work actually sounds quite modern. The interplay between the piano and orchestra reminded me of Bohuslav Martinu. 

Suite No. 2 in A minor is a fascinating piece. Stohr composed it after reuniting with his wife. She had been unable to leave Austria, and the two had been separated for nine years. It’s a personal work, never published, and never performed. But what an expression of joy. This is a work that should be immediately added to the string orchestra repertoire. 

Toccata Classics titled this release “Volume One.” I’m looking forward to hearing more of Stohr’s orchestral music — especially his six symphonies!  

Richard Stöhr: Orchestral Music, Volume One
Music for String Orchestra
Agnieszka Kopacka, piano
Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics TOCC D468

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