String Quartet No.35 in E flat Major, Op.155
String Quartets fascinated and occupied Louis Spohr (1784-1859 also known as Ludwig) through out his life. He began composing them around 1806 at the age of 22 and continued right up until the end of his life. String Quartet No.35 was composed in 1856, toward the end of his life. Spohr was 72, yet the music is full of vigor and energy more befitting of a young man.
Spohr was not only one of the leading violinists of the first half of the 19th century, he was also well-known quartet player, composer, conductor and director at various musical courts throughout Germany. During his lifetime and for a long time thereafter, Spohr was widely regarded as one of Europe's most important 19 century musical personalities .
Spohr noted a short while beginning work on No.35 that he wished to write a quartet which returned to the principals of Mozart but in a neo classical vein and not an imitation. The opening movement, Allegro, begins with a rather Mozartean theme but which Spohr quickly infuses with a Romantic treatment. Excitement is generated by sudden bursts of downward plunging 16th notes in all of the voices. The second movement, Andantino, is calm and peaceful. It effortlessly exudes beauty by virtue of its simplicity. Next comes a Menuetto. Here Spohr harks back to the classical era he so admired. The graceful minuet charms with its clever use of an ending phrase which questions and answers. The middle section is a mini-serenade, let by the first violin. The finale, Allegro non troppo, is an example of Spohr's compositional talent. He takes a short phrase and a la Haydn fashions an entire movement from it.
Spohr wrote several string quartets, known as Quatour Brillants, which were nothing more vehicles for the first violin. This quartet is NOT a Quatour Brillant. It has good part writing and none of the rhythmic peculiarities which mar many of his works. What's more, it presents no great technical difficulties and therefore should be of especial interest to amateurs as well as professionals.