Spohr: Quintet in C minor, Op. 52; String Sextet in C, Op. 140; Septet, Op. 149; Piano Quintet, Op. 130

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COMPOSERS: Spohr
LABELS: MDG Gold
WORKS: Quintet in C minor, Op. 52; String Sextet in C, Op. 140; Septet, Op. 149; Piano Quintet, Op. 130
PERFORMER: Ensemble Villa Musica
CATALOGUE NO: 304 1263-2
In the first half of the 19th century the reputation of Louis Spohr equalled, and in parts of Europe, surpassed that of Beethoven. One of the greatest violinists of his day, he was often markedly innovative as a composer, influencing mainstream figures such as Liszt and Brahms. If he failed in winning the Holy Grail of his career, namely providing Germany with a great national opera, he left a huge legacy of unfalteringly craftsmanlike compositions. The stylistic affinities found in this gathering of four of his larger chamber works are various. There are similarities to Weber’s lighter manner in the Quintet for piano and wind, a backward glance at Mozart in the slow movement, but the menuetto, the gem of the work, is a superb example of early Romanticism. The string sextet is more strikingly original, and had a clear influence on both Brahms and Dvorák. Although the Septet for piano, wind and strings came from Spohr’s last years, it is irrepressibly good humoured and superbly written for the instruments. Brahms is again prefigured in the Piano Quintet notwithstanding the frothy bravura of the piano writing. These performances are unfailingly excellent, well recorded, with a clear feel for the essence of this now neglected composer; Kalle Randalu’s piano playing is a delight and the only general quibble is that the wind playing could at times have done with a little more opulence. But no one with an interest in the unjustly forgotten corners of Romanticism should hold back. Jan Smaczny

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