SPOHR Concertants for 2 Violins and Orchestra: No. 1 in A, op. 48; No. 2 in b, op. 88. Duet in G, op. 3/3 • Henning Kraggerud, Øyvind Bjorå (vn); Stephan Barratt-Due, cond; Oslo Camerata; Barratt Due CO • NAXOS 8.570840 (57:02)
Olav Anton Thommessen’s notes to Naxos’s release of two concertants by Louis Spohr notes the composer’s predilection forRead more compositions intended for double forces (the double quartet, the violin duos, and the Seventh Symphony for double orchestra), which Thommessen traces to Spohr’s experience of hearing antiphonal singing in St. Petersburg. The two concertants played by Henning Kraggerud and Øyvind Bjorå span a quarter of a century, while Spohr published the duet much earlier.
Those who admire both Spohr’s duets (often regarded as the best ever written for two violins) and his violin concertos should delight in these concertants; they combine the same sort of relationship between the solos and orchestra, the same melodic turns and penchant for ornamented melody from the concertos with the active, though here more homophonic than contrapuntal, partnership of the two violins from the duets. Aficionados of Spohr’s works will note that perhaps his most popular concerto (at least nowadays), the Eighth, op. 47, comes from the same general period as the First Concertant. That’s apparent in both the figuration and, to some extent, in the thematic material of the first movement. Kraggerud and Bjorå play Spohr’s intricate tracery exuberantly at a rapid tempo. They match so well that they present almost a single strand of sound to counter the orchestra’s forces. Both violinists play with tonal and technical command (Kraggerud on a 1744 Guarneri del Gesù), producing a warm sonority in the melodious slow movement. The Rondo presents the two soloists in dialogue that almost belies Thommessen’s attempt to set Spohr apart from some of his more self-aggrandizing contemporaries; there’s no lack of purely virtuoso excitement in either the first or last of the movements, even if Spohr’s type of virtuosity belonged to an era earlier than Paganini’s (Spohr, for example, disdained off-the-string staccato). Passages in the finale so similar that, but for the dates of their composition, they might have been lifted from the Duo Concertant, op. 67/2 (from 1824), argue for Spohr’s relative stability through his career (although some may point to signs of stylistic development in the concertos). Still, the Second Concertant begins in a mood of darker anticipation (Spohr has been described as addicted to minor keys, perhaps because of the slinkier chromatic possibilities they offer). As in the First Concertant, the soloists enter singing together before loosening their woven strands. Their cooperation as they swirl giddily together in the movement’s headlong passagework (and in the finale’s, as well) could serve as a model, though perhaps one difficult if not impossible to emulate, of perfect ensemble coordination. The slow movement begins with a passage for the two violins alone, reminiscent in its texture of the duos. Spohr, as mentioned, has often been described as the most successful writer of duos for two violins, perhaps because he buried the individuality of the two parts in those works in thickly orchestral textures, allowing for almost symphonic proportions and complexity. As does the Aria of Spohr’s Eighth Concerto, this slow movement has a bravura rapid section at its core. The finale sounds elegant, as do the soloists. The orchestra throughout contributes a sonorous symphonic accompaniment, which the engineers have captured in all its majesty.
The Duet in G Major, as early as it may be, sounds so much like the later duets, at least insofar as the writing for the violins and the thematic turns go, that it might bear a later opus number. These duets exploit the full range of the violin as well as almost all of the pre-Paganini (or at least, non-Paganini) technical devices, assigning them simultaneously to the two violins—no simple trapeze artist and catcher here. David and Igor Oistrakh used to play Spohr’s Duo, op. 67/2, through which they sped at breakneck speed. Kraggerud and Bjorå play this one as Spohr’s duo, not theirs.
I remember Spohr sweatshirts several generations ago, so perhaps Spohr’s time has come and gone again. But recordings like this one suggest that there’s a third (and perhaps fourth and fifth) spring in store for his music. For its breathtaking performances and for its ingratiating repertoire, Naxos’s collection deserves a very strong recommendation across the board.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
Concertante for 2 Violins in A major, Op. 48by Louis Spohr Performer:
Oyvind Bjora (Violin),
Henning Kraggerud (Violin)
Baratt Due Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1808; Germany
Concertante for 2 Violins in B minor, Op. 88by Louis Spohr Performer:
Oyvind Bjora (Violin),
Henning Kraggerud (Violin)
Baratt Due Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1833; Kassel, Germany
Concertante No. 1 in A major, Op. 48: II. Larghetto
Concertante No. 1 in A major, Op. 48: III. Rondo: Allegretto
Concertante No. 2 in B minor, Op. 88: I. Allegro
Concertante No. 2 in B minor, Op. 88: II. Andantino
Concertante No. 2 in B minor, Op. 88: III. Allegretto
Violin Duet in G major, Op. 3, No. 3: I. Andante - Allegro vivace
Violin Duet in G major, Op. 3, No. 3: II. Andante - Allegretto - Andante - Allegretto - Andante
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Absolutely superbFebruary 16, 2015By Anthony G. (valley stream, NY)See All My Reviews"If you have not purchased from Arkiv yet this year, start with this cd. I would say I have listened to it for about a dozen times and never grow tired of it. I keep hearing and discovering new delights every time I listen."Report Abuse