Nonet for Wind and Strings
arranged by Tony Turrill from the 4th Double String Quartet
click here for some extracts
here for complete performances
A contemporary of Mendelssohn , Spohr was the leading German violinist of his generation and as any violinist who has led the octet for cl/2hn/string quintet will testify, wrote himself parts that enabled him to demonstrate his virtuosity. He was also a successful mentor who gradually built a coterie of students of ever increasing competence. Although a very prolific composer, only a small selection of his works is well known. While most of us will be well acquainted with the Mendelssohn Octet, fewer will know of the Spohr’s four double quartets, the first predating the Mendelssohn, the last written twenty years later. While the instrumentation is identical, the difference in titles is signicant; Octet vs Double quartet. The octet is intended to be played as a single ensemble, Spohr wrote for two quartets performing opposite each other who often play ‘question and answer’. In the first he definitely provides for the virtuosity of his own quartet and the more limited capabilities of a student group. By the time of the fourth the two are more equal although in the case of the leading violinist “some are more equal than others” Once heard in their original format, all four are so melodic that they are not easily forgotten. The underlying structure of two component parts immediately provided a tempting opportunity to use strings and wind for the two components. No. 4 is often described as Spohr at his very best.
The balance of instrumentation in Spohr’s own famous nonet works so well that it has been used here. The arrangements do not religiously allocate quartet 1 to strings and quartet 2 to wind but wherever possible take advantage of having five wind instruments each capable of leading and contrasting with each other and the strings.
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