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Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 10
Soon after the premiere of his Op 1 Wiklund found himself the recipient of two major grants, and he left Sweden to study abroad. He spent time in both Paris and Berlin, where he studied the piano with James Kwast and Ferruccio Busoni. During a brief spell back in Sweden in the summer of 1906 he rented a cottage on the island of Dalarö in the Stockholm archipelago, and there began work on his Piano Concerto No 1. The idea of a career as a pianist and conductor in Europe still attracted him, however, and an offer to become a repetiteur at the Court Theatre in Karlsruhe in Germany drew him away from Sweden again in 1907. According to some sources the new concerto was premiered before Wiklund’s move to Germany—in January 1907, with the composer as soloist with the Konsertföreningen. But a letter to Stenhammar in December that year suggests that the composer may have carried on working on his concerto during his time in Karlsruhe: ‘My concerto has now been finished for some time. It is now in the key of E minor and has three movements only, the last being a scherzo. I am happy with it as I think it is good.’ A subsequent performance took place in 1909 (or, according to some sources, in 1908) with the Swedish pianist Aurora Molander and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera (Hovkapellet) conducted by Armas Järnefelt. Whether or not this performance was the premiere, or the first performance of a revised version of the concerto that Wiklund had completed in Karlsruhe, remains unclear. Wiklund’s letter to Stenhammar suggests that he changed the tonality of the work (something Stenhammar himself would later do with his Serenade Op 31, which was considered unplayable in its original key), so it seems the concerto underwent considerable revision, whatever its performance history.

In any case, as we know it today Wiklund’s Piano Concerto No 1, Op 10, is in the key of E minor, firmly established by the solo piano in the arresting opening solo. The first movement unfolds in a sonata form of symphonic proportions, both structurally and dynamically, with the vigorous main theme contrasted by a chorale-like second subject. In his mature works, of which the E minor Concerto can be considered the first, Wiklund creates a highly personal, eclectic style within the late Romantic idiom, drawing on a range of stylistic influences; while the sound-world of the first movement is predominantly Germanic with occasional echoes of the Slavic Romantics, the nocturnal second movement by contrast suggests Impressionistic colours (Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande had made a big impression on the young Wiklund).

The Andante ma non troppo begins pianissimo, as the previous movement had ended, with an orchestral tutti based on a motif of two oscillating notes accompanied by slowly pulsating low strings and timpani. This creates music at once undulating and static, moving effortlessly between major and minor tonalities as well as gliding in and out of moments of modality so typical of Scandinavian music in the wake of Sibelius. The piano enters secretively with dark repeated chords in B minor, emerging almost unnoticed from the orchestral resonance, and starts building towards the first climax; this quickly fades to make way for a contrasting, more overtly melodic theme presented in the strings and imaginatively embellished by the soloist. The same structure repeats itself once more, with ever-varying timbre and texture, before the music fades away in a subdued coda based on the two-note motif.

Six bars, beginning with a pianissimo timpani roll, connect the slow movement to the energetically playful finale which indeed at least starts very much in the style of a scherzo. The main theme, presented in double octaves by the piano, has a curious origin: the Wiklund family to this day (as related to the author by the composer’s grandson) have a clever way of locating each other if becoming separated in a large crowd: one person whistles two notes, an ascending major second, and listens for a descending fourth from the main note, revealing the location of the other person! The movement offers a considerable display of elegant virtuosity by the soloist and follows the scherzo formula, with the trio section represented by a hymn-like theme, until the extended coda in which a horn quietly reintroduces the chorale theme from the first movement. The music grows to a glorious climax, featuring the main theme of the first movement and the hymn theme from the scherzo, and in its final seconds the music returns to the whirling scherzo material in a triumphant E major.

from notes by Martin Sturfält © 2012

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67828 track 3
Allegro vivace
Recording date
25 September 2010
Recording venue
Helsingborg Concert Hall, Sweden
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Hyperion usage
  1. Wiklund: Piano Concertos (CDA67828)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: June 2012
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