It is always nice to come across a piece of music that you do not know that grabs your attention. On the road (as ever??) this week, I switched on the radio (tuned as ever to FMR) and found a piece of chamber music playing. Winds and strings, a favourite combination. Sextet, septet, octet, nonet? With pleasure I anticipated solving the puzzle in the ensuing few minutes. At least for strings, horn, clarinet. Sextet? What was this piece, and by whom? Tuneful – was it Hummel? A new movement began. The composer was using an adaptation of Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith theme for a set of variations. In F major – good key for making the best of the horn, the solo introducer of the theme. I realised that the movement might be a semitone lower in E major, but it sounded so good and natural in F. A pleasant few minutes of F as the set of inventive variations played; then what sounded as if it must be the finale with the most felicitous tune over a range of an octave, given to the horn. Two horns in the piece, it was now clear. Septet? I arrived back at the hospital, parked and sat in the vehicle until the movement finished in order to listen to the back announcement. Spohr, that made sense. Septet, cool. E major – it won’t be for me, happily.

Two days later I thought I would listen to the new septet again. Classics Online had a performance by the Nash Ensemble. I streamed it, and without doubt, the Spohr sounded in E major throughout. Why? I prefer it in F!