Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Johan Wilkmanson (1753-1800) did not compose his first string quartet - his first opus, in fact - until he was approximately 32 years old, by which time he had an excellent sense of how it should be done. The Swedish pianist, organist and music-educator dedicated this work to Haydn, a fact that you might deduce simply from hearing it, since it falls enjoyable into the pattern of that composer's middle-period quartets: melodious, neatly but not rigidly organized, nicely balanced and jovial.
I was unaware of this composer and this music until Sunday night, when the Fresk String Quartet, Sweden's leading quartet, gave the work's Washington premiere in the National Gallery. It was hardly a dazzling revelation, but it was a pure, unmixed pleasure, and we don't have so many of those that we can afford to be ungrateful.
In this work, as in Debussy's only string quarter and Beethoven's last one (the magnificent Op. 135 in F), the Fresk foursome played with unobtrusively fine technique and superb coordination, only slightly blurred by the hall's resonant acoustics. They told us nothing new about the more familiar music, but they renewed the acquaintance pleasantly.