Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 2 in B minor, Op 17
In 1908 Wiklund moved from Karlsruhe to Berlin to take up positions as repetiteur at the Royal Opera and Etelka Gerster’s Opera School, and stayed there for three years gaining valuable conducting experience. In 1911 came the offer of a conducting post at the Stockholm Royal Opera which was enough to make the thirty-two-year-old Wiklund give up the idea of an international career and settle in Sweden. His achievements with the opera and later the orchestra of the Konsertföreningen were of great importance in Sweden, but meant that he found little time to compose.

Nevertheless, in the summer of 1916 (again spent on Dalarö) he found the inspiration to compose another piano concerto, which was premiered in March 1917, once again with the Hovkapellet conducted by Armas Järnefelt, and the composer at the piano. The Piano Concerto No 2 in B minor, Op 17 is in three movements played without a break. More condensed than its predecessor, its orchestration and form are more refined, an obvious development during the intervening decade.

While the music is conceived firmly within the boundaries of tonality (Wiklund remained true to his late- Romantic ideals throughout his life), the B minor Concerto displays occasional moments of harmonic ambiguity and unexpected forays into distant keys. The somewhat harsh opening statement from the orchestra is certainly one such instance: two bars of seemingly unrelated major thirds and minor seconds followed by a downward cascade. However, as soon as the piano enters, presenting the distinctly Scandinavian-flavoured main theme in the fourth bar, we have a solid B minor footing. This muscular opening solo is followed by an extended orchestral tutti; this leads to a transitional passage hinting at the second theme, which with its dactylic rhythms and parallel intervals seems to pay tribute to the composer’s great friend and mentor, Wilhelm Stenhammar. After a development of the thematic material, offering much integrated dialogue between the piano and orchestra, the movement’s sonata form is interrupted by a quiet reminiscence of the second theme ending on an unresolved G sharp major seventh chord, leaving a single pianissimo note hanging in the air, first played by a horn then taken over by a clarinet as the second movement begins.

In what must be considered one of Wiklund’s most inspired passages, the clarinet slowly works its way chromatically upwards while syncopated string chords underneath move in contrary motion seemingly without ever resolving. Gradually the full orchestra enters and an F sharp major tonality is eventually established. As in the second movement of the Op 10 concerto, the piano enters in a secretive manner, drawing dark sonorities from the depth of the instrument and gradually growing to a fortissimo climax, before falling back to a pianissimo. These waves of shadowy darkness and blazing light intensify in long lines building to a culmination in E major; this is followed by a series of reminiscences of the first movement in a dialogue between the soloist and orchestra.

Back in B minor, and once again in a conspiratorial pianissimo, the main theme of the finale is not so much presented as suggested by a single bassoon. Taken up by the piano, the hushed, somewhat Mephistophelian character is reinforced. The accumulated tension finally erupts in ecstasy which permeates the rest of the movement, which is harmonically the most advanced of the three. The elated coda in particular appears to strive to break its tonal confines by constantly modulating through a series of heavily altered chords, coming as close to expressionism as Wiklund ever did.

from notes by Martin Sturfält © 2012

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