Spohr: String Quintet No. 7 in G minor, Op. 144; Sextet in C, Op. 140; Potpourri, Op. 22

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COMPOSERS: Spohr
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Spohr
WORKS: String Quintet No. 7 in G minor, Op. 144; Sextet in C, Op. 140; Potpourri, Op. 22
PERFORMER: New Haydn Quartet; Attila Falvay (violin), Sándor Papp (viola), Tamás Varga (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555968
Spohr’s amiable Potpourri for solo violin and string quartet, incorporating variations on ‘Là ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, was written just a year after Beethoven’s revolutionary Razumovsky Quartets, Op. 59. By the time Spohr completed the last of his seven string quintets, more than four decades later, the careers of Schubert, Mendelsssohn and Chopin had come and gone. Spohr was still composing blissfully unadventurous music, though it was now tinged with regret, as though for a lost age. The G minor String Quintet, Op. 144, has a troubled opening movement that appears to begin in mid-flow, while its agitated minuet gives way to a yearning major-mode finale that fades away nostalgically at the end.

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Still more impressive than the Quintet is the C major Sextet Op. 140 – a beautifully written piece whose mellow sonority and lyrical expansiveness provided the model for similarly scored works by Brahms, Dvoák, Tchaikovsky, Schoenberg and Reger. The first two movements of Spohr’s piece, in particular, are minor masterpieces, and well worth exploring. The expanded New Haydn Quartet makes a persuasive case for this sadly neglected repertoire, with playing of admirable character and conviction. Misha Donat