Sperger: String Quartets op. 1

Mitglieder der Kammerakademie Potsdam
cpo 555 470-2

Johann Matthias Sperger‘s three string quartets, opus 1, were printed by the renowned Berlin published Hummel in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death. Comparisons with the younger man’s work are inevitable. Although Sperger’s works very definitely deserve to be heard (and this excellent performance on modern instruments can only help lift the composer’s popularity), these three substantial pieces could have been written by a young Mozart, not the man who had just died. As noted in the booklet, Sperger’s more introspective moments (especially in the slow movements, but always when he wanders into a minor key) are his strongest. He was not a shy musician, dedicating his music to the Russian Tsar and the King of Prussia, and I think he had good reason to think his output good enough. There are at least six more quartets awaiting discovery – perhaps a period quartet out there would like to take up the baton?

Brian Clark

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