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Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
String Quartets: Vol. 10

String Quartet No. 24 in G Op.82 No.2 (1828) [31:07]
(i) Allegro [8:54] (ii) Adagio [7:03] (iii) Alla Polacca: Moderato [6:53] (iv) Finale: Allegro [8:17]
String Quartet No. 25 in A minor Op.82 No.3 (1829) [28:07]
(i) Allegro [8:48] (ii) Andante [5:05] (iii) Scherzo: Vivace [5:20] (iv) Finale: Andante - Allegro [8:53]
Moscow Philharmonic Concertino String Quartet
Rec. Studio 1, Russian State TV and Radio Company Kultura, Moscow in December 2003. DDD
MARCO POLO 8.225306 [59:14]


Louis Spohr was a prolific composer and violinist. He wrote 36 string quartets, eight of which he referred to as solo quartets and were vehicles for his own virtuosity. The two recorded here are from the standard mould, well-crafted and tuneful if formally unambitious. Marco Poloís project to record them all is more than half complete and this disc introduces a change of personnel, volumes 1-9 having been recorded by the New Budapest Quartet.

These two quartets provide considerable contrast. Both were written a year or so after Beethovenís death, and the debt to Haydn and Mozart is clear. Spohr is known to have actively disliked Beethovenís later works although he did perform the Op.18 quartets. We can hardly expect this music to reflect such an influence Ė few others seem to have understood it at the time.

The G major quartet is predominantly contented in nature with a gloriously sunny opening movement. This is followed by an adagio with hidden depths but no real pathos. The third movement replaces the usual scherzo or minuet with a stately polonaise and trio. The finale is full of humorous touches. In the A minor work it is the slow movement that provides light relief as Spohrís outer movements generally inhabit a much more serious vein. The substantial finale begins with a slow introduction and ends rather quizzically.

The Concertino String Quartet (to give their abbreviated title) was formed in 1994 and specializes in rarities. Their playing is expressive and always at the service of the music. The internal recorded balances are natural although I found the overall aural perspective a shade close with breathing often evident. The documentation is excellent with authoritative contributions from Spohrís biographer, Clive Brown and the president of the British Spohr society, Keith Warsop.

A fine disc in a series that looks to be worth investigating, although it is a pity it is not being issued on the super-bargain price sister label Naxos. Given that low price tempts exploration, it is becoming hard to work out the raison díêtre for the more expensive Marco Polo label when so much other little known music is now available.

Patrick C Waller

see also review by Colin Clarke

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