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 Polo’s 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 Beethoven’s
death, and the debt to Haydn and Mozart
is clear. Spohr is known to have actively
disliked Beethoven’s later works although
he did perform the Op.18 quartets. We
can hardly expect this music to reflect
such an influence – 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 Spohr’s 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 Spohr’s
biographer, Clive Brown and the president
of the British Spohr society, Keith
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 d’être
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