String Quartet No.1 in d minor--New Edition
Johan Wikmanson (1753-1800) was born in Stockholm and, except for 18 months spent in Copenhagen studying mathematics and instrument making, lived his entire life in the Swedish capital. He was a superb organist and for many years held the post of organist at the Storkyrkan, Stockholm's principal church. He was also an accomplished cellist. Nonetheless, like most Swedish musicians of this era, he was unable to earn his living solely as a practicing musician and was forced to find employment as a government accountant. He did, however, obtain some recognition during his lifetime. In 1788, he was made a member of the Swedish Royal Academy and later was put in charge of its music program.
Wikmanson composed five string quartets, none which were published during his lifetime. After his early death of tuberculosis in 1800, his friend Gustav Silverstolpe published, at his own expense, what he considered to be the three best, titling them Opus 1. Later, Silverstolpe gave the rights to the well-known German publisher Breitkopf and Härtel, hoping they would publish the quartets and hence give them wider circulation. However, this appears not to have happened. No new edition appeared for more than 170 years and that one is now out-of-print.
We do not know exactly when "String Quartet No.1", as Silverstolpe styled it, was composed. It certainly was not the first and most scholars believe it was probably his fifth and last quartet. There is evidence to support this in that Silverstolpe selected what he (and most others) considered the strongest work to be placed first in the set of three which he published. This was common practice because it was generally felt that it was the first quartet in the book which got people in the door so to speak, i.e. got them interested in playing the others. The weakest was usually placed in the middle and another strong work at the end. The Op.1 Quartets were dedicated to Haydn, albeit posthumously. Though Wikmanson did not know Haydn personally, it is clear that he was familiar with Haydn's quartets, including the Op.76 which were published in 1799, the year before his death. Haydn for his part, was very impressed by these works and to stimulate interest in them.
String Quartet No.1 is in four movements--Allegro--Adagio--Minuetto and Allegro. It is the equal of any of Haydn's Op.64 quartets and in some ways, in advance of them, particularly in its excellent use of the viola and cello. The most striking movement is the marvelous Adagio, a powerful funeral march--which was performed at Wikmanson's own funeral. It is reminiscent of the slow movement to Haydn's Op.20 No.2, one of the finest Haydn ever wrote. The minuet is also grave in mood although its lovely trio is much like an Austrian Ländler. The finale features a wild racing melody with a surprise ending.
Our entirely reset new edition is based on a copy of the 1801 Silverstolpe publication by the Stockholm firm of Olaf Åhlström. It was edited by R.H.R. Silvertrust. We feel confident that this classical era string quartet with its freshness and originality will give great pleasure to chamber music lovers everywhere.
Score & Parts: $36.95