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Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Duo Concertant in G minor, Op.95 (1836) [32:57]
Duo Concertant in F major, Op.96 Reisesonate (1836) [27:52]
Grand Duo Concertant in E major, Op.112 (1837) [30:27]
Six Duets; Elegisch und humoristich, Op.127 (1843) [33:44]
Francesco Parrino (violin)
Michele Fedrigotti (piano)
rec. 2012, Chiesa di Santo Stefano, Bizzozero, Varese
STRADIVARIUS STR33933 [60:50 + 64:22]

There’s always more to discover about Louis Spohr and as evidence this release of his Concertante works for violin and piano contains three world premiere recordings. Only the Grand Duo Concertant in E major, Op.112 is especially well known and then really only to a coterie of violin mavens, who will assuredly have heard Ingolf Turban’s recording with Kolja Lessing on CPO 777 492-2.

The Opp. 95 and 96 works were both composed in 1836 and are equally large in scale. The G minor, Op.95 is Schumannesque, sometimes to a fault, and very lyrical. He’d earlier had problems writing for the piano, which he found hard work, but experience brought maturity in that respect and the writing now sounds idiomatic. The veiled Beethovenian inspiration of the slow movement is notable and even though the Allegretto finale lacks real distinction, it possesses a certain salon charm.

The Reisesonate, Op.96 is a more interesting work written in the wake of a holiday during which Spohr, his wife and their friend Adolf Hesse journeyed to Dresden and onwards to the countryside south of the city. It’s a nostalgic, narrative work, a kind of holiday diary in sonata form. Horn calls announce the start of the adventure and the brio here is palpable. The writing is malleable and thematically more striking and succinct than the slightly earlier work. The post-horn evocations in the second movement, marked Reise, are full of charm and the quotation from Handel’s keyboard Passacaglia (from the Suite No.7), which makes an appearance is surely no accident. The third movement is meant to evoke an organ prelude heard in the Royal Chapel in Dresden, after which the violin steals in, evoking the priest, with the Dresden Amen. The journey continues in the finale with Bohemian merriment, a playful way to end, with just a hint or two of Schubert’s last sonatas along the journey.

This incident-packed work does, I have to say, make the dapperly constructed and highly effective Op.112 seem a little laissez-faire. Its easy-going, avuncular character is well brought out by Francesco Parrino, though Turban remains the more consistent technician and stylist. In 1843 Spohr wrote his Six Duets with a very Mendelssohnian Lieder ohne Worte subtitle. Intended as a cycle, Spohr cleverly imposed a workable tonality and then vested his lyric gifts, as well as contrasts of mood and tempo, on the six pieces. The central movements play on the idea of slowness – Larghetto, Andante, and Adagio – and the finale offers an appropriate summation, though it is the one movement where his indulgence of excessive passagework somewhat limits admiration.

The booklet contains some excellently reproduced artwork and reproductions, not least of scores. Keith Warsop, Chairman of the Spohr Society of Great Britain writes the excellent ‘Spohr and the Piano’ article. Alberto Cantý’s article is also certainly well worth reading though take the title seriously when he writes ‘margin notes for some sonatas’ as he only writes about the two on the first CD and thus omits all reference to Opp.112 and 127. I assume he wasn’t asked to write about them. Strange situation.

The performances by Francesco Parrino and Michele Fedrigotti are affectionate and pleasing. Turban is a higher-octane player, but I think listeners will enjoy Parrino’s playing on his Gagliano and Fedrigotti’s appropriately-chosen and good-sounding 1849 Broadwood in an attractive acoustic.

Jonathan Woolf



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