SPOHR String Quartets: No. 19;1 No. 22 • 1Concertino Qrt; New Budapest Qrt • MARCO POLO 8.225981 (63:20)
Marco Polo creeps ever closer to its admirable goal of recording all 36 of Louis Spohr’s string quartets; after this, the 15th volume, there are only four numbered quartets remaining, plus a couple of potpourris and variation sets, which may or may not be included. The seeming return of the distinguished New BudapestRead more Quartet in this volume raised hopes that they had rejoined the project, having recorded the first nine CDs in the late ’80s and early ’90s; alas, what we have here is only half a loaf, as the D-Minor Quartet, op. 74/3, given here was actually recorded in 1996. So, it has been in the can all this time, waiting for a discmate.
The D-Minor Quartet is an expansive work, at 37 and a half minutes the longest of the 32 quartets issued so far. Its first movement, in flowing triple meter, lasts almost 13 minutes with exposition repeat, despite what is a very brief development section. After a noble Adagio and a restless Scherzo, the D-Major Finale is highly contrapuntal and not a little Mendelssohnian (an anachronism, to be sure, since this work was composed in 1826, the same year as the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The entire quartet features the first violin as primus inter pares, a natural consequence of Spohr’s being a virtuoso violinist who led the ensemble for which his quartets were written. The New Budapest Quartet, which maintained a high standard through the 20-some quartets it recorded before bowing out of the project in 1996 (the year of this recording), is again highly proficient, making the strongest case for this music whose craft sometimes exceeds its invention.
The A-Major Quartet, op. 68, is one of Spohr’s quatuors brillants (not “brilliants” as they have sometimes been referred to in these pages), essentially chamber concertos for the solo violinist, with the three other quartet members providing accompaniment. Here a top-flight leader is an absolute necessity for an effective performance, and readers who have read my reviews of previous volumes in this series by the Moscow Philharmonic Concertino String Quartet know that this group doesn’t have one. Jaroslav Krasnikov’s faulty intonation and what I have called his “wiry, off-center tone” make listening to this piece a bit of a trial, but of course it’s the only game in town.
Marco Polo’s recorded sound is without fault, and the booklet notes by Keith Warsop of the Spohr Society of Great Britain are authoritative as usual. Worth getting for the New Budapest’s op. 74/3, and of course for collectors who have long since committed to this series.
A wonderful recordingMarch 8, 2012By K. Krueger (Evergreen Park, IL)See All My Reviews"Marco Polo has been recording and releasing the string quartets of Louis Spohr since 1989! Volume 15 includes a quatuor brilliant performed by the Concertino String Quartet of Moscow in 2010, and a l quartet of traditional structure performed by the New Budapest Quartet in 1996. This latter group performed for the first 9 volumes in this series. I am neither a critic nor a professional musician so I cannot comment on the performances or even on the pieces themselves. I personally prefer the sound of the New Budapest Quartet, the Concertino String Quartet seems just a little too present to my ears. Spohr's chamber music is elegant in the best sense of that word and I am extremely grateful for the musicians of both groups who have brought these two quartets and most of the others in this series to the world. The only thing better than hearing this music from a compact disk would be to be in a fairly intimate auditorium and hearing it live. If you are unfamiliar with Louis Spohr's chamber music, this recording is a good place to begin! This is wonderful music."Report Abuse