String Quartet in D Major, Op.30 No.3
“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.3 is the third of a set of three which date from 1805. In the opening Allegro the interaction of the parts is given precedence over the distinct individuality of any one part given a highly blended and intricate effect. It should be noted that Wölfl’s handling of the cello throughout the work is on a par with the Op.76 quartets of Haydn. The second movement, marked Minuetto is more like a scherzo of the type one finds in early Beethoven or late Haydn. The third movement, Andante un poco allegretto, is quite striking with its serious mood and subdued, march like rhythms. The main theme of the galloping finale, Prestissimo, bears a striking resemblance to the opening movement of Beethoven's Op.18 No.3.
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 certainly enjoy the work which presents no special technical problems.