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Music by Spohr, Rolla
and Kalliwoda -
reviewed by

'... seasoned insights and faultless empathy.'

Spohr Rolla Kalliwoda - Works for Violin and Viola. Vaughan Jones. Reiad Chibah. © 2008 Manor House Music

Here's a welcome programme of little known string duos from the interregnum days of receding classical leanings and growing romantic persuasion.

Though all three composers enjoyed considerable fame in their lifetimes, today Spohr alone receives ongoing, if rather limited attention.

Sad to say, in our supposedly enlightened times, neither Alessandro Rolla, Director of La Scala Orchestra (1802-1833) and prolific Bohemian composer of operas, symphonies, concertos, choral works and chamber music, nor Johann Kalliwoda get much attention or recognition. For the most part their scores gather dust.

In all three works the two featured artists, Vaughan Jones (violin) and Reiad Chibah (viola) work together with seasoned insights and faultless empathy. Jones (born 1970) began playing the violin at the age of eight, later going on to the Birmingham Conservatoire and Royal College of Music. Chibah (born 1972) attended the Purcell School and Royal College of Music where he won all the undergraduate viola and string chamber music prizes. Jones plays on plays a modern violin by Martin McLean of Moneymore, Northern Ireland; similarly Chibah uses a modern instrument by Polish luthier Jan Bobak.

Listen -- Spohr: Tempo di Menuetto (Duo in E minor)
(track 3, 0:02-0:56) © 2008 Manor House Music

For much of the twentieth century the once famous Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859) was virtually forgotten. But the records show his skills as a virtuoso, composer and conductor are undeniable. The E minor Duo is seamless in its construction with neither player treated as subservient. Spohr's work took cognizance of the instruments' contrasting sonorities and used them to expressive advantage.

As fine works for violin and viola are hardly a dime a dozen, this duo cries out to be heard more frequently. The standard three movements (Allegro moderato; Adagio; Tempo di Menuetto) have pleasing substance, scoring a bulls-eye for their immediacy and confident melodic impact.

While still a young man, Spohr found fame throughout the German-speaking world as both violinist and composer. Later, after busily touring, he was appointed conductor at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna (1813-1815), where he was friends with Beethoven. He then proceeded to Frankfurt and took up a post as opera director (1817-1819).

While in Frankfurt he mounted his own operas -- beginning with, Faust, previously rejected in Vienna. Spohr's final job, from 1822, was as director of music at the court of Kassel, a position offered at the suggestion of Carl Maria von Weber. In 1836 he married a second woman; 29-year-old Marianne Pfeiffer.

Italian violinist and composer Alessandro Rolla preceded Spohr and for a time taught Paganini. It was Rolla who pioneered several of the technical innovations Paganini used in dazzling his audiences; developments soon attributed to the famous legendary virtuoso. Israeli violinist Ivry Gitlis hit the nail on the head when he referred to Paganini as 'a phenomenon rather than a development'.

Listen -- Rolla: Rondo: Allegretto (Duo Concertant in C minor)
(track 6, 0:01-1:48) © 2008 Manor House Music

Rolla also had a hand in bringing Beethoven's music into Italy. In doing so he absorbed the influence of the German 'titan' and here in the Duo Concertant the traits of early Beethoven are periodically in evidence.

The lengthy opening movement, marked Adagio ma non troppo / Allegro is both direct, straightforward and outgoing in mood. Then an easy-going Andante and lively Rondo allegretto wrap the work up with intermittent backward glances at their Classical parentage. While the Rolla work hardly activates the intellectual antennae it's altogether pleasing, especially when played with such evident enjoyment.

I confess the name Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda was foreign to me. That surname put me in mind of someone from a ramshackle settlement in Australia's merciless interior. But no, the truth is Jan Køtitel Václav Kalivoda was born in Prague where he worked tirelessly as a violinist, conductor and prolific composer.

From 1822 to 1865, he was employed as conductor, and apparently treated as something of a 'dogsbody', at the court of Prince Karl Egon II of Fürstenberg and that of his successor in Donaueschingen (At the Black Forest source of the Danube).

Schumann spoke of him as a 'cheerful, harmonious man, whose later symphonies, with a more labored foundation, did not reach the height of his first.'

The four movement Duo in C minor begins with a competent Adagio sostenuto leading to an Allegro non tanto. Then Kalliwoda lets the side down with a somewhat mundane Andante followed (thankfully) by a brisk, pleasing Scherzo prestissimo. Kalliwoda winds the work up with a fourth movement styled Allegro risvegliato (which translates as Allegro with more animation).

Listen -- Kalliwoda: Allegro Risvegliato (Duet in C)
(track 10, 3:29-4:43) © 2008 Manor House Music

Jones and Chibah do all they can to bring the work to life with distinction and panache and by and large their efforts deserve enthusiastic applause.

From the opening track to the disc's finish this newly revived music is tasteful, pleasing and undemanding -- the thoroughly involving performances serve all ten movements to the uttermost and Manor House Music's recording defies criticism.

Copyright © 19 October 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


Spohr Rolla Kalliwoda - Works for Violin and Viola

Manor House Music 001 Stereo NEW RELEASE [c60'] 2008 Manor House Music

Vaughan Jones, violin
Reiad Chibah, viola

Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859):
Duo in E minor Op 13
1 Allegro Moderato
2 Adagio
3 Tempo di Menuetto

Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841):
Duo Concertant in C minor Op 4 No 2
4 Adagio Ma Non Troppo - Allegro
5 Adagio Ma Non Troppo
6 Rondo: Allegretto

Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda (1801-1866):
Duet in C Op 208 No 1
7 Adagio Sostenuto - Allegro non Tanto
8 Andante Moderato
9 Scherzo: Prestissimo
10 Allegro Risvegliato


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