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Erik Gustaf GEIJER (1783-1874)
String Quartet No. 2 in B flat Major (1846-47) [31:52]
Andreas RANDEL (1806-1864)
String Quartet in F minor [34:03]
Norrköpingskvartetten
rec. 9 May 1977 (?), Sveriges Radio
STERLING CDA1829-2 [65:55]

This disc seems to be as much a celebration of the Norrköpingskvartetten as it is of the music of Erik Gustaf Geijer and Andreas Randel, as nearly three times as much booklet space is given to the quartet as to the music. The notes were written by Dag Kyndel, the son of the quartet’s cellist Tore Kyndel, and give a detailed history of the Norrköpingskvartetten, from their humble origins as the Kyndel String Quartet, formed around the Kyndel brothers, through its many changes of members, including some of the most prominent orchestral string players of the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, to ultimately being named the Norrköping String Quartet when only the one brother remained, and how on the retirement of Tore Kyndel in 1975, the quartet disbanded.

The opening work on this disc is the B flat Major String Quartet of Erik Gustaf Geijer, who by all accounts, seems to have been a cultured individual and a part-time composer. He was also known as a writer, historian, poet, philosopher, educator and Member of Parliament, so he must not have had a great deal of time to devote to composition. He mainly concentrated on small-scale compositions, with songs, chamber and piano music making up the bulk of his works. He is primarily remembered as a nationalist writer and politician and a statue was erected in his honour at Uppsala University.

Geijer’s String Quartet No. 2 is broadly based upon the Middle-European classical traditions of the late quartets of Haydn and Mozart and early Beethoven. It has a traditional four-movement form, with the slow movement placed third. It opens with a stately theme over a dotted cello accompaniment before expanding into a more animated section. The second movement Molto vivace, is all together livelier than the opening movement, with an attractive central theme before the return of the opening music. The third movement, Andante, is for me the heart of this quartet, as it contains some of the finest music and has some nice developmental touches. The Quartet concludes with shimmering string writing that expands and develops into more dramatic material with some solo writing for the first violin.

In comparison, Andreas Randel was a composer and violinist, born Andreas Pettersson, whose early talent brought him to the attention of the Swedish Crown Prince Oscar who supported the budding composer by arranging for him to study in Paris with Louis Baillot and Luigi Cherubini. Aged 22 and having changed his name to Randel, he returned to Stockholm and was instantly employed as a violinist in the court chapel, where he would later become Concert Master. He also joined the Royal Opera Company, where he also rose to become Concert Master and composed music for about twenty plays, as well as a number of orchestral and chamber works, including four violin concertos, which the booklet notes tell us were “written in a French virtuoso style”.

The chamber music was more “influenced by the late style of Haydn and early (style) of Beethoven.” That being said, the opening Allegro moderato movement of the F minor String Quartet, while having Beethovenian characteristics, also shows the influence of Mendelssohn, which is even more pronounced in the second movement. The third movement, Adagio con espressivo, again contains some wonderful writing for the first violin, then the Allegro scherzando finale is reminiscent of a scherzo by the young Mendelssohn.

This is a wonderful disc of forgotten nineteenth century Swedish string quartets which are both beautifully played by the Norrköpingskvartetten. Their standard of playing exceeds their fame; yes; they were well known in Scandinavia, but on this evidence their reputation should have been broader. In his notes, Dag Kyndel states that they recorded on several occasions for Swedish Radio, let us hope that Sterling mine their archives further to come up with more gems like this. The production values are excellent with very good sound and notes.

Stuart Sillitoe

 

 



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