String Quartet No.1 in E flat Major, Op.1
Iver Holter (1850-1941) was born in the Norwegian town of Gausdal. As a boy he was given violin lessons. Formal lessons began with Johan Svendsen and he then entered the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied with Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn. After graduating, he pursued a dual career as a conductor and composer. He succeeded Edvard Grieg as conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic and later served as music director and conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic. Holter composed piano music, songs and choral music, a symphony, two string quartets, and several instrumental works. Generally, his music does not display as much Norwegian flavor as that of either Grieg or Svendsen
However, that is not the case with his First String Quartet which was composed while he studying at Leipzig in 1879. The first movement starts with a short Lento introduction which quickly gives way to the main section Allegro molto con brio. The first subject is a heroic Nordic melody which is then followed by a softer and more lyrical second theme. The second movement, Andante con variazione, has for its theme what is probably a Norwegian folk melody. Several contrasting variations follow. The third movement, Allegro giocoso, although marked “Intermezzo” in the score, is a dance-like scherzo which reminds one a bit of Nordic hobgoblins a la Grieg. The finale, Vivace ed energico, begins with the violin giving out a heroic theme over a pulsing eighth note accompaniment in the other voices. Soon all join in the festivities, which again is tinged with Nordic melody.
Here is a fun quartet with good part-writing for all. Strong enough for the concert hall, it will find friends among amateurs wherever it is played.