String Quartet No.1 in e minor, Op.36 No.1
Erkki Melartin's String Quartet No.1 in e minor is the first of a set of three published as his Op.36 in 1904, the manuscripts to these quartets can be found in the library of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Our edition is based on those manuscripts. Although published simultaneously, they were not written one after the other but over a period of six years. No.1 dates from 1896 when the composer was 21. It is in four movements and begins with an Allegro that features a lovely opening theme, somewhat on the melancholy side. A light, perhaps Brahmsian second subject follows. The second movement, Menuetto, scherzando is a blend of a updated minuet as a kind of relaxed scherzo. It comes with a finely contrasting trio. The Andante which serves as the third movement, though not so marked is an attractive theme followed by a series of original sounding and engaging variations. The finale, Presto, burst forth and comes to a sudden stop before finally taking off at full speed. The main subject conveys a sense of urgency. It is followed by a more genial second theme.
Erkki Melartin (1875-1937) was born in the Finnish town of Käkisalmi. He studied with Martin Wegelius in Helsinki and then in Vienna with Robert Fuchs. He pursued a career as a composer, conductor and teacher, serving as the director of the Helsinki Conservatory. He was a prolific composer who wrote in most genres. His music shows the influence of Mahler and is primarily written in the late, post Brahmsian idiom. He did not ignore chamber music and composed a piano quintet, a string quintet, four string quartets and several short works for piano trio. Unfortunately, most of these have remained languishing in manuscript form in libraries and have not been published. His work, as the quartet clearly shows, is quite accomplished and indicates that he was a first rate composer whose music deserves to enter the repertoire and to be heard on a regular basis.