String Quartet in E flat Major, Op.30 No.1
“Wölfl’s string quartets are very accomplished as to style and technique, as one might expect from someone who was a very accomplished musician and who had studied with some of the best teachers of the time.”—–The Chamber Music Journal. In fact, when you hear Wölfl’s string quartets it is hard to understand how he has flown under the radar for so long a time. In our opinion they are in a league with those of Haydn and the best of Wranitzky and Krommer. Joseph Wölfl (1773-1812, the name is often spelled Woelfl) was born in Salzburg. He studied violin, piano and composition there with Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang’s father) and Michael Haydn (Joseph’s brother). In 1790, he moved to Vienna where it is thought he briefly studied with Wolfgang Mozart. Wölfl became a virtuoso pianist and was sometimes considered to be Beethoven’s equal. It was on Wolfgang’s recommendation the Wölfl was able to procure a position with Count Michal Casimir Oginski as a piano teacher in Warsaw. During the political upheavals in Poland he returned to Vienna and then began a career as a touring concert pianist, eventually settling in Paris (1801-1805) and then London where he spent the rest of his life. Wölfl wrote operas, ballets, symphonies, works for piano, songs and quite a lot of chamber music, including some 25 string quartets, 3 string quintets, 15 standard piano trios and several others for various instrumental combinations with piano. In addition to this, he wrote dozens of sonatas and other works for violin and piano, flute and piano and harp and piano.
Op.30 No.1 in E flat Major is the first of a set of three which date from 1805. The opening movement, Allegro, begins with a bouncy theme in 6/8. Several lyrical episodes provide fine contrast. The second movement, Adagio is a real standout, powerful and dramatic, it makes a very strong impression. Next comes a Haydnesque Minuetto, allegro. The finale, Allegretto, is very Viennese-sounding is a bright and exciting romp.
We have reprinted the 1805 edition but have added rehearsal letters. This quartet makes an excellent program choice as a substitute for the inevitable Haydn or Mozart and will certainly be welcomed by audiences. Amateurs will also enjoy the work which presents no special technical problems.