David's Review Corner
, January 2011
I seem to remember, but its so long ago, that I was a young man when this cycle of Louis Spohr’s complete string quartets began. On this epic pilgrimage we have now reached volume 14 and a disc that contains his Thirty-six and last major work before his death in 1859. Stylistically they were already out of date when written, for though he seems to crave to be part of the emerging Romantic era, his academic training was dictating formal structures. He was also to compose so much that his detractors described it as a little inspiration spread over too many works. But that greatly undervalues him, for he was a consummate craftsman who could tease our ears with a web of pleasing melody. That would certainly be true of the Thirty-first where the leading violin needs to display an agility that would dwarf many concertos. The sombre second movement is offset by a scherzo that keeps recycling the same material, while the finale is a bustling Allegro molto with the leader kept furiously busy. Spohr suffered bouts of depression in his last years, not helped by a broken arm that brought his violin career to an end. It may have been in one of those moods that he placed an embargo on performances of the Thirty-sixth. As he so often retracted his black thoughts, the Moscow Philharmonic Concertino hope that he would forgive their disobedience. In many ways I find it one of his most readily likeable, and if he does repeat motifs far too often, the same would be true of his earliest works in the genre. The second and third movements have much good humour, the finale simply busy. Having played a myriad of notes, its a mite unkind to say that Jaroslav Krasmikov’s violin intonation is not always beyond question, though Spohr should be pleased with both performances. The Potpourri is an engaging pastiche of popular Mozart arias.