1. Prelude: Allegro Moderato
2. Theme with Variations: Andante sostenuto
3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
4. Finale: Allegro brillant
- Year of composition: Berlin-Düsseldorf 1895
- Work category: String quartet
- Dedication: Dedicated to Skoglar Bergström
- Duration: Approx. 20-25 min
Location for score and part material
Copy of score and parts at Sveriges Radios Musikbibliotek (no. 31489)
- Location autograph: Musik- och teaterbiblioteket
Description of work
1. Prelude: Allegro Moderato F major 4/4 (C)
2. Theme with Variations: Andante sostenuto D minor 3/4
3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace A minor 6/8
4. Finale: Allegro Brillant F major 4/4 (C)
Tor Aulin was Sweden's foremost violinist in the decades around the turn of the century, which left its mark, not only on the concert scene, but also on the music he composed. Serenade for String Quartet from 1895, is an example. The first violin is usually in the foreground, and although it displays a far from similar virtuosity to that of violin concertos, there is occasionally a soloistic feature to this part.
The string quartet was a form that the composer knew very well from his experience with the Aulin Quartet, formed in 1887. The quartet's programming was ambitious, not only in individual concerts, but also in terms of a whole year's planning, which could feature a specific composer, such as Beethoven or Berwald. Any influence of this tradition can scarcely be felt in Aulin's only contribution to the string quartet repertoire (in Bo Wallner's article on Aulin in Sohlmans musiklexikon, ed. 2, he discusses a string quartet where the part of the first violin is lost – it is likely, however, that a confusion occurred with the Serenade, which Wallner does not mention).
It is already implied in the choice of the work's title: Serenade. Yet Aulin chose a four-movement form, with a fast initial movement, a slow variation movement, a scherzo, together with a quick finale.
The first movement, in F Major, entitled Prelude, has the first violin as the central focus. The resemblance to Aulin's first two violin concertos is remarkable, through the long melodic lines, followed by passage work. The variation movement, in D minor, allows the melancholy theme to wander between the instruments, with the theme's presentation in the first violin, and the faster moving first variation having it placed in the secondary voice. The second variation presents a subtle, tightly-woven texture, where the cello now carries the theme, and the third variation, where the viola's theme is set against the other parts' light sixteenth notes, leading eventually to a major-key variation in adagio tempo.
The scherzo in A minor contains elements reminiscent of the lightning agility found in Mendelssohn's string writing, and is interrupted by a trio, Più tranquillo. Strong fluctuations in both tempo and dynamics entail that a tension-filled drama emerges, that can often be found in Aulin's more ambitious compositions. The concluding Allegro brillant has a main theme, reminiscent of the first movement's character, but now with a more verveful approach. Again, there is a contrasting idea, Maestoso but, as previously, these two opposing elements are transformed into more melodious material. In this movement the virtuosity is more evenly distributed, not least through the energetic sixteenth-note passages in all of the parts.
The work is dedicated to Skoglar Bergström ("my old friend and 'quartet- brother'", as Aulin writes in the dedication), who worked at the National Library and was a member of the Mazer Quartet Society. Although the first part has its difficulties, it is well-suited for the instruments and the quartet may very well have been adapted for the society's most skilled amateurs, and not only for its professional members.
© Erik Wallrup, Levande Musikarv
Trans. Robin McGinley