Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Concertante No. 1 in A major, Op. 48 (1808) [24:20]
Concertante No. 2 in B minor, Op. 88 (1833) [26:07]
Violin Duet in G major, Op.3, No. 3 (1833) [9:55]
Henning Kraggerud (violin); Øyvind Bjorå (violin)
Oslo Camerata and Barratt Due Chamber Orchestra/Stephan Barratt-Due
rec. February 2008, Jar Church, Oslo
NAXOS 8.570840 [57:02]

This is a fine and satisfying recording of music which, if hardly outstanding, has strong merits and certainly deserves repeated listening.

With several recent recordings of Spohr’s symphonies from Hyperion on the market (1 and 2; 4 and 5; 3 and 6), there is something of a revival of the composer’s music after a century-and-a-half of neglect. The two concertanti – or double violin concertos, which is what they really are – span either side of the first half of Spohr’s career.

The first, in A major, is a bright sunny work, rooted in the Classical style and cast in a traditional three-movement structure. It is essentially a three-way conversation between the two soloists and orchestra, although the violins tend to gossip amongst themselves most of the time. A strong individual voice emerges in the opening Allegro. The solo lines are cool and restrained, but involve enough technical difficulties to challenge the two excellent soloists - Henning Kraggerud and Øyvind Bjorå – and satisfy the listener’s desire for aural spectacle. After a rather forgettable slow movement, we are treated to a quaint but attractive Rondo with some clever fiddle tricks.

The second concerto, written a quarter of a century later is altogether more restive, with stronger interventions from the orchestra, and a more Romantic feel. The dark opening section of the first movement leads to some feverish playing by the violins, which is followed by an agitated Andantino, where the soloists furiously attack some double-stop marks. The final movement is another rondo, with a quietly subdued outlook.

The CD ends with one of Spohr’s violin duets from his 1833 volume of teacher-pupil studies. A scholarly, technical piece, the G major study, No. 3, probably has more appeal for the performers than the casual listener, but they at least demonstrate that the self-effacing Spohr was more than capable of making a virtuoso splash when he wanted.

John-Pierre Joyce