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Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
String Quartets (Complete), Volume 11: No. 32 in C, Op. 141 (1849) [34’31]; No. 34 in E flat, Op. 152 (1855) [31’35].
Moscow Philharmonic ‘Concertino’ String Quartet (Yaroslav Krasnikov, Sofiya Krasnikova, violins; Pavel Zhdanov, viola; Victor Kozodov, cello).
rec. Studio 1, Russian State TV and Radio Co Kultura, Moscow, 16-30 Dec 2003. DDD
MARCO POLO 8.225307 [66’06]


As in the case of Volume 10 (review), Marco Polo have pitted an eloquent, sunny work against a more shady, profound one. Once again this disc rebuffs any suggestion that Spohr is facile as a composer; indeed, Op. 152 is a work of remarkable substance.

But Op. 141 first. Spohr had been Kapellmeister at Kassell for full 27 years when he wrote his thirty-second quartet. It is a cheerful work, as its sunny first movement attests. The first violin part can be delightful, and all credit to Yaroslav Krasnikov for not only negotiating it with such apparent ease but also for making so much scalic work so interesting!

The slow movement (a Larghetto) has an easy flow and much give and take between players. It tries for depth at times but never quite goes there. Interestingly, the lively bounce of the Scherzo has a shadowy side to it.

As if to prove that this is no turbo-charged quartet, the finale is fairly laid back (despite its Presto marking). The final two chords may come as a surprise – they did to me!

The E flat is more richly rewarding as a composition per se. There is a deep sadness to the richly-toned beginning that sets the mood perfectly. This is far deeper than the word ‘Spohr’ usually implies, and the unsettled mood continues into the Allegro. An interior, whispered Larghetto con moto (veiled much of the time) leads to more uneasy shifts for the Menuetto. Only the finale is easy-going, moving along with true compositional ease. Indeed, Spohr’s compositional fluency is never in doubt on this disc.

Another triumph for Marco Polo. An explorer of a record label it certainly is, and long may it continue in this vein. Expert notes by Keith Warsop (Chairman of the Spohr Society of Great Britain) complete the excellence of the package. Marco Polo’s engineers (Producer Lubov Doronina and Engineers Vladimir Samoilov and Andrey Volovikov) have produced a fine recording.

Colin Clarke

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

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