Notes and Editorial Reviews
Grand Duo Concertant,
Six Salon Pieces,
Ingolf Turban (vn); Kolja Lessing (pn)
CPO 777 492-2 (76:19)
In his 1961 essay “Style and ‘Styles’ in Music,” Roger Sessions draws the distinction between stylistic range and stylistic refinement, and identifies with the former the faculty of creating a new and unique musical world with every important work. Among the composers he cites as possessors of this faculty are the Mozart of
Die Zauberflöte, Figaro
and the Wagner of
Tristan, Die Meistersinger
. As examples of composers who tend rather to stylistic refinement Sessions cites Chopin, Debussy, and Schumann. He hastens to point out that this dichotomy neither is completely clear-cut nor implies a judgment of one type as superior to the other.
With this in mind, we can assign Louis Spohr emphatically to this latter category: One can identify as his music any passage of a few bars’ duration from one of his chamber works, distinguishing the specific work from its peers is a far more difficult proposition. These observations come to mind as I listen to this music for violin and piano: It is distinctively, unmistakably Spohr, but the individual works lack, for a better word,
. This does not prevent them from being delightful; it merely makes it unlikely that this music will ever attain the immortality of Beethoven’s violin sonatas, for example. Indeed, Spohr’s violin-and-piano music, like his quartets and symphonies, sounds as if Beethoven had never happened.
Spohr wrote three multi-movement works for violin and piano that are for all intents sonatas; he chose, however, to call them
s, perhaps to avoid comparison with Beethoven’s sonatas, perhaps to emphasize the equality of the violin and piano parts in contrast with the keyboard-centric sonatas of Mozart. His op. 112 in E Major, written in 1837, is the last of these three; Spohr had written no consequential music for violin and piano before 1836, when in his 50s he became more interested in writing for the piano after marrying his second wife, Marianne, a pianist. The work lasts a good half-hour and incorporates a sonata-form first movement and the usual slow movement, scherzo, and rondo, but is distinctly lighthearted music with more than a little opportunity for virtuoso display—Mozart meets Paganini, perhaps. The 1846–47
are likewise attractive, and together last about 35 minutes. The earlier (1820)
in G is brief, with a florid violin part and a mostly chordal piano part. The
is a solo piano work; it consists of only three sections (ABA’), thus perhaps the diminutive title, since classical rondos almost always comprise at least five, or, more typically, seven, sections. This last was also included in Howard Shelley’s recent Hyperion CD of Spohr’s and George Onslow’s piano music (
No other recordings of the violin-piano works here are available, at least in the U.S.; it is possible that these are first recordings. This is my first exposure to the playing of Ingolf Turban, whose biographical note indicates that he is a Paganini specialist. He has plenty of technique to handle Spohr’s demands, and although he occasionally makes some harsh sounds with his bow arm, these are on the whole highly enjoyable performances; in any event, don’t hold your breath waiting for another violinist to record this music. Now, we can hope for CPO to give us the remaining works in this medium. Recommended to Spohr fanciers and violin mavens.
FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan