Adolf WIKLUND (1879 - 1950)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 10 (1906-1907) [32:41]
Konsertstycke in C major, Op. 1 (1902) [16:06]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 17 (1916-1917) [26:10]
Martin Sturfält (piano)
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze
rec. Helsingborg Concert Hall, Sweden, 21 - 25 September 2010
Detailed track-list at end of review
HYPERION CDA67828 [74:59]
Adolf Wiklund is little known outside his native Sweden. As for his compatriots, he was better known as a conductor at the Stockholm Royal Opera and also of the orchestra of the Konsertföreningen, today the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. These activities meant that he had little time for composing during the latter part of his life. His teachers included Richard Andersson, who was a pupil of Clara Schumann, and Johan Lindegren, who taught several generations of Swedish composers. His most influential mentor was Wilhelm Stenhammar with whom he became very close and they discussed their new works together. The two piano concertos are generally regarded as Wiklund’s most important works and they were frequently played until the 1960s, when they were deemed unfashionable. In 1941 no less a pianist than Wilhelm Backhaus played the second concerto. Both concertos have also been recorded several times, the most recent, before this issue, by Ingemar Edgren (No. 1) and Greta Erikson (No. 2) some thirty years ago both later issued together on CD on Caprice CAP21363.
In Concerto No. 1 it is the pianist who opens the first movement. The piano part is throughout rich and brilliant and the orchestral writing is fresh and powerful. Wiklund is firmly rooted in the romantic tradition and there is more than a faint echo of Brahms in this movement. This is not to say that he is just an epigone; his is a distinctive personal tone and in the beautiful slow movement there is Nordic flavour but also fragrances from an impressionistic pallet. Wiklund had heard Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and was very impressed by it. The final movement is an infectious dance, which is followed by a more meditative section before we are back in dancing mood, leading to a grandiose triumphant conclusion. It is very easy to fall in love with this concerto, so full of ideas. In a way this is also the weakness of the work. Wiklund has so much to say that he becomes too verbose. It is nevertheless a charming verbosity and his conversation is never pointless.
The Konsertstycke, Op. 1, written when he was only 23, also brims over with ideas and, being his first composition, it is surprisingly mature, not least in the surefooted handling of the orchestra. The piano part is truly virtuosic and reveals that Wiklund was an outstanding pianist. The work was also met with unanimous praise by the music critics - including the hard-to-please Wilhelm Peterson-Berger. Adolf Lindgren wrote in Aftonbladet: ‘inventive ideas, admirable realization and commendable orchestration’. It is easy to agree.
Ten years after the first concerto he wrote his second concerto. In the meantime he had matured further and learnt to economize his ideas. This is a much tauter composition with the three movements following each other attacca. Having owned the Greta Erikson recording since it was new, I was already familiar with the work and spent some time refreshing my memory before listening to Martin Sturfält’s reading. This is certainly one of the finest Swedish concertos and that it is now available on an international label will surely mean that it will reach a new audience.
The tonal language is very much the same as in the earlier concerto but there are some harsher harmonic turns that reveal that Wiklund during the intervening years had learnt a thing or two from the currents of a new time. That said, he was no barnstormer and anyone who likes Rachmaninov will immediately feel at home in this work. Whether Rachmaninov has been a model is hard to say but the second movement grows magnificently into something that could have been music for a romantic movie, a Swedish Brief Encounter maybe. The finale also has echoes of Rachmaninov but it never becomes syrupy, which occasionally is the case with the Russian’s music.
Martin Sturfält’s recording has no competition today. Since Caprice Records no longer exists the Greta Erikson recording is no longer available, unless some adventurous company would buy the whole back catalogue and reissue it - there is plenty of interesting material there. Hyperion’s recording, produced by Andrew Keener, is first class in every respect, the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra play superbly under their Principal Conductor Andrew Manze and Martin Sturfält delivers commanding readings of the solo parts. Readers who have heard his debut CD for Hyperion with music by Wiklund’s friend Stenhammar, will already know his capacity.
Amazingly this disc is No. 57 in Hyperion’s series ‘The Romantic Piano Concerto’ and still more is to come. This indicates no doubt that there is a market for music off the beaten track. As always with Hyperion’s issues the presentation is exemplary, including a well written interesting essay by Martin Sturfält. Adolf Wiklund may be little known but I hope that this excellent disc will change that.
Göran Forsling
It is very easy to fall in love with this music so full of ideas. Superb playing; commanding readings.

Hyperion Romantic Piano Concertos: Review index
Detailed track-list
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 10 (1906-1907) [32:41]
1. Allegro energico [13:38]
2. Andante ma non troppo [9:13]
3. Allegro vivace [9:48]
4. Konsertstycke in C major, Op. 1 (1902) [16:06]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 17 (1916-1917) [26:10]
5. Allegro moderato - [8:24]
6. Andante sostenuto - [8:38]
7. Allegro non troppo [9:07] 
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