String Quartet No.2 in e minor
If anyone can lay claim to the sobriquet "The Swedish Haydn", it is Johan Wikmanson (1753-1800) whose familiarity with the Vienna classics, and in particular Haydn, was unparalleled at the time in Sweden. Wikmanson 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.
We do not know exactly when the three "Op.1" string quartets, as Silverstolpe styled them, were composed. They certainly were not Wikmanson's first compositions. Most scholars believe they were composed toward the very end of his life. 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.2, like the first, is also in four movements. Thematically, it is on a par with Haydn's Op.64 quartets and, in advance of them in its excellent use of the viola and cello. In the second quartet, this is especially apparent in the second movement, Un poco adagio, which is a theme and set of variations. The work opens with an interesting a Haydnesque Allegro di molto. The theme and variations of the second movement are as good as any that Haydn ever penned. They are followed by a muscular, thrusting Menuetto with a contrasting trio which lead without pause to the finale. The first part is a continuation of the minuet, however, the main body of the movement is a thrilling Prestissimo.
Our edition is based on a copy of the 1801 Silverstolpe publication by the Stockholm firm of Olaf Åhlström. While amateurs will take pleasure from a fine classical era work which is not difficult to play, the quartet is a viable options for professionals who wish to show what was being written at the same time as Haydn.