Nicolai von Wilm
of Steve Jones
String Nonet in a minor, Op.150
For 4 Violins, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos and Bass
Nicolai von Wilm's Op.150 Nonet for Strings in a minor may well be the only string nonet ever composed. Certainly, the only one of which we are aware. There are other nonets, of course, but these are for various combinations of strings, winds and or piano. Wilm's Nonet was published in 1911 shortly before his death. It was premiered to considerable acclaim but then disappeared. It is a fine work deserving of performance both in the concert hall and in the homes of amateurs. The opening movement, Moderato, ma appassionato, is a restless turbulent affair. Next comes a beautiful and deeply felt Adagio con sentimento. The third movement, Scherzo, molto vivace, has a Mendelssohnian flavor with a lovely contrasting trio. The finale, Allegro di molto, is full of verve and elan and makes a wonderful conclusion to this first rate work.
Peter Nicolai von Wilm (1834-1911) was born in the old Hanseatic city of Riga, today’s capital of Latvia, but then part of the Russian empire. In the 19th century, Riga was still predominantly a German city and Wilm’s family was ethnic German. He first learned piano and then studied that instrument as well as composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. Subsequently, he worked as a music director in Riga and St. Petersburg after which he moved to Wiesbaden in Germany where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a prolific composer who wrote in most genres, but the bulk of his music was for piano. However, he did not ignore chamber music and besides this string quartet, also has string sextet, string nonet, a piano trio and several sonatas to his credit, all of which the famous music critic Hugo Riemann described as important works. Riemann noted that the String Nonet, for two string quartets and bass) was the only nonet exclusively for strings, all previous nonets were for mixed ensembles of winds and strings.
This very effective work, published only once, has been unavailable for more than a century. We are pleased to reintroduce a quartet which should make friends of whomever plays or hears it. We have reprinted the original but have added rehearsal letters and corrected a few mistakes.