WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A; Violin Concerto No. 14 in A minor; Violin Concerto No. 15 in E minor
PERFORMER: Ulf Hoelscher (violin)Berlin RSO/Christian Fröhlich
CATALOGUE NO: 999 403-2
During his lifetime the music of Louis Spohr aroused such widespread admiration that his contemporaries frequently mentioned his compositions in the same breath as those of Beethoven. Subsequent generations, however, have taken a much more sober view of his achievement. For instance, out of his 15 numbered violin concertos, only the Eighth, conceived in the rather unconventional form of an operatic scena, still hovers on the fringes of the repertoire. Yet on the evidence of Ulf Hoelscher’s invaluable series for CPO, the almost total neglect of the other concertos seems unjustified.
This latest instalment in the complete cycle maintains the impressive standards set in previous recordings. Hoelscher demonstrates a formidable mastery of Spohr’s technically challenging passagework, although his efforts are somewhat undermined by the recessed sound of the orchestra. The music itself is attractive and melodious, without plumbing great emotional depths. Nonetheless, it is fascinating to experience a bird’s-eye view of Spohr’s development, from the elegant if somewhat four-square First Concerto to the more sophisticated harmonic and formal structures of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth. Underlying all these works is Spohr’s remarkable constancy of musical language, as well as a reluctance to move with the times – factors which may well have hastened his demise later in the 19th century. Erik Levi