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); ōyvind BjorŚ (violin)
Oslo Camerata and Barratt Due Chamber Orchestra/Stephan Barratt-Due
rec. February 2008, Jar Church, Oslo
NAXOS 8.570840 [57:02]

Spohrís two Concertanti were written some 25 years apart, and display his characteristic melodic grace, adept interplay, and a sometimes intriguing approach to orchestration. It all makes for fluent listening, especially given the fine performances enshrined in this disc.

The elegant two minute orchestral introduction to the A major Concertante sets the marker. Clever registral interplay demarcates Spohrís schema, allowing contrast but also unison. Overall he imbues the music with a joie de vivre demonstrated by ebullient trills which lead dramatically into the orchestral tutti Ė maybe a stock gadget but when carried off with panache still an exciting one. Spohr manages too to imbue the wind writing with sufficient personality and the curlicues for this section add nicely to the orchestral sound-picture. With a rather pious slow movement Ė neat running orchestral pizzicato show the composer pulling out all the stops Ė there is also sweet charm. And with a bright, jovial finale, rich in gallant hues (and animating horns) this is a work well worth getting to know.

Its companion was written in 1833. The two violins enter much earlier than in the previous work, establishing their credentials with more romantic spirit. Kraggerud and BjorŚ take care to give full weight to those moments when Spohr encourages a spongy lower string statement from the one and an answering crystalline upper string commentary from the other. Again the wind playing is pert Ė the orchestral forces here are adept. The notes speak of Spohrís writing here being anticipatory of Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and Mahler. Well, the last named is surely far-fetched in this context, but there are some intriguing pre-echoes of Tchaikovsky certainly. The grazioso double-stops of the two soloists in the slow movement are set atop intriguingly reduced orchestral support. The finale has brio but is not aggressive; itís an Allegretto after all, and has just a few hints that Spohr was more than slightly au fait with Mozartís Sinfonia Concertante.

Published in 1833 and one of his studies, the Violin Duet in G major maintains a good balance between expressive and technical demands, the multi-sectional nature of the second movement being especially successful in this regard.

There are other performances of the two Concertantes. Ulf Hoelscher recorded them with his sister Gunhild on CPO 999 798-2 though I wasnít able to audition them. Hoelscher, as some will know, is something of a hero of the Spohr violin discography having recorded the complete cycle of concertos. Nevertheless this sprucely performed Naxos entrant is notably well played and recorded.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by John-Pierre Joyce