Notes and Editorial Reviews
After previously offering an expertly performed complete cycle of Louis Spohr's violin concertos for CPO (and an outstanding bargain at six CDs for the price of two!), violinist Ulf Hoelscher returns, this time with his sister, scholar/violinist Gunhild Hoelscher, in a recording of Spohr's Concertantes 1 and 2 for two violins and orchestra. Like the concertos, these Concertantes are equally well-crafted and stylish--typical of this composer, who was highly regarded in his day and is remembered as one of Germany's earliest and more fascinating romantics.
The opening Allegro of the first Concertante is characterized by thematic diversity that allows the soloists innumerable expressive and interpretive opportunities. The unusual if not unprecedented scoring of the second-movement Larghetto is also fascinating, as Spohr eschews the orchestra's winds, violins, and violas, leaving the soloists accompanied only by the cellos and a double bass. This somber passacaglia-like meditation is a marvel, with a fiercely sentimental violin melody punctuated throughout by clusters of brooding string figures. The middle-movement Andantino of the second Concertante begins at a treacherously slow tempo (resulting in some iffy intonation at times), but is eventually taken over by both soloists projecting bold, Paganini-esque displays.
The program also includes two rarities that surely will interest fans of this period--Spohr's Grande Polonaise Op. 40, and his Potpourri uber irsche Volksweisen (Potpourri on Irish Folk Songs) Op. 59. The ensemble's dramatic gestures throughout the Polonaise provide Ulf Hoelscher an ample foil with which to demonstrate his more lighthearted virtuosity. His duets here with the unfortunately uncredited (rare for CPO) first-flute and first-clarinet are especially humorous. The Potpourri is equally lively and fun--especially in the final Allegro, with Hoelscher's often wildly animated fiddling heightening Spohr's delightful variation on Fague a Ballagh (Out of the way!). CPO's generally excellent sonics slightly favor the soloists. Hartmut Becker's notes are informative and feature many entertaining anecdotes. This is a very worthy supplement to Hoelscher's previously-mentioned Spohr cycle, and it couldn't be more warmly recommended.
--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com