Double Quartet No.2 in E flat Major, Op.77
The Double Quartet format--for 2 string quartets-- is not only unusual but is virtually unique to Spohr and must be ranked as his most important contribution to the realm of chamber music.
Louis Spohr (1784-1859 also known as Ludwig) was born in the German city of Braunschweig. From early childhood, he showed a great aptitude for the violin. He studied with the virtuoso violinist Franz Anton Eck in St. Petersburg and ultimately became one of the leading violinists in the first half of the 19th century. But he was also an important composer and conductor. Spohr wrote in virtually every genre, not the least being chamber music. He composed some 36 string quartets, 7 string quintets, five piano trios, four double quartets and several other chamber pieces.
In his memoirs, Spohr wrote that the idea of the double quartet came to him from friend and colleague, the famous violinist, Andreas Romberg. Quite apart from a standard octet which works as one large group, the idea of the Double Quartet was to have two separate, but equally important groups which could enter into the most varied of relationships. He set himself the task of using two quartets in frequent contrast in the manner of a double choir and saving the combining of the groups into an octet for the climaxes of the work. Hence the alternating of presentation of the thematic material of the two quartets creates a ongoing dialogue and is crucial to the structure of the work. It also allows for an even greater use of tonal coloration than the standard octet. In line with this, Spohr specified that the seating arrangement for a double quartet had to be different from an octet. He decreed that the two quartets were to be seated opposite one another with the first violin and cello of each quartet sitting directly across from his counterpart.
Spohr's Second Double Quartet dates from 1827. Although there are some brilliant passages for the first violin in the first quartet, especially in the warm and melodious opening Allegro vivace, Spohr took particular pains to treat both quartets more equally than he did in his first double quartet and overall, the style is less brilliant and more intimate. This is followed by a march-like Menuetto, quite classical in form with wonderfully contrasting trio section which features a lovely duet between the violin and viola of the first quartet. The elegant third movement, Larghetto con moto, is a kind of theme with variations and features a striking pizzicato in the second quartet. The jaunty finale, Allegretto, with several exciting, breathless sections, makes a strong impression.
There are very few works of this type and Spohr's are the archetype. Like the others, this double quartet is fun to play and rewarding. Our all new, easy-to-read edition by R.H.R. Silvertrust, was made with attention to page turns and with rehearsal numbers.
Parts & Score: $59.95