Spohr: Nonet, Op. 31; Quartet-Concerto, Op. 131; Overture, Op. 12

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COMPOSERS: Spohr
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: Nonet, Op. 31; Quartet-Concerto, Op. 131; Overture, Op. 12
PERFORMER: Ensemble Villa Musica, Leipzig String Quartet, Leipzig CO/Sebastian Weigle
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 307 0849-2
Louis Spohr’s multi-talented skills as a musician gave him great influence throughout his career. Besides his considerable accomplishments as a violin virtuoso and as a composer in a wide variety of genres, his activities as a teacher brought him widespread esteem. The three pieces given here highlight his comprehensive creative fluency and gift for orchestration.

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Spohr was among the first to compose purely instrumental overtures, without dependence on non-musical themes. Nevertheless, the Leipzig Chamber Orchestra’s account of the C major Overture – deftly highlighting the composer’s imaginative scoring – has all the freshness and charm one would expect of a successful opera composer. Satisfying instrumental clarity is also the hallmark in the A minor Quartet-Concerto, featuring the Leipzig Quartet as soloists. Weigle’s musicians underline the opening movement’s broad Romanticism with precision and delicacy. The slow movement’s remarkably concentrated expressive force is worthy of Beethoven, and the work concludes with entertaining exuberance.

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Brahms modelled his first Serenade after Spohr’s Nonet, and the Ensemble Villa Musica’s finely judged rendering makes it easy to share Brahms’s special enthusiasm for the work. Alert attention to detail brings out its disarming melodies and progressive harmonies (particularly in the scherzo), culminating with delicious effervescence in the dancy finale. Nicholas Rast