Danish String Quartet Prism IV
Danish String Quartet Prism IV
The Danish String Quartet is an ensemble equally at home delving deeply into works by great masters such as Beethoven and Mozart and performing folk gigs. The quartet comprises three Danes and one Norwegian cellist, making this a truly Scandinavian endeavor. The three Danes attended The Royal Academy of Music, and in 2008, the Norwegian joined. Praised by The New York Times for “playing of unusual, and unusually effective, liberty” and a tone that “throbs with joy,” The Danish String quartet has built a reputation for their unique interpretations of both traditional and contemporary repertory, often opposing contrasting material and idioms within a program. Violist Asbjørn Nørgaard explains the quartet members have become “slightly bored with much of the classical music programming. Too much randomness, too little connection.” As they attended a back-to-back performance of Wagner’s Prelude to Lohengrin and Ligeti’s Atmosphères, interpreted by the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle, they came to a collective realization that ultimately gave birth to the idea for the Prism concept: “connecting masterworks” and “creating a completely new framing but with elegance and respect.” The quartet is violinist Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin.
About the Album
The Danish String Quartet is now releasing their fourth album in their Grammy-nominated Prism project, linking Bach fugues, Beethoven quartets, and works by later masters. The penultimate volume of the series combines Bach’s Fugue in G minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier (in the arrangement by Viennese composer Emanuel Aloys Frster) with Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132 and Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.2 (composed in 1827). As Paul Griffiths observes in the liner notes, these pieces “sound all the more remarkable for the exquisite brilliance and precision of the Danish players.” Prism IV finds the quartet interpreting Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) String Quartet No.2. Again, Griffiths remarks in the liner notes that the quartet’s interpretation of Mendelssohn is empowered by Beethoven’s model in terms of “vivid gesture, contrapuntal energy, harmonic boldness, and formal innovation.”
Our Favorite Tracks
Opening Prism IV is Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier / Book 1 BWV 846-869: Fugue in G Minor, BWV 861 (Arr. Förster for Strings). The quartet’s rhythm grabs the attention first, which is precise, lively, and joyous. These qualities permeate the performance making Bach’s counterpoint exciting and easy to follow. The quartet listens to each other well and plays as a unit, building the composition and breathing life into the musical score.
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132: “V. Allegro appassionato – Presto” continues the aforementioned qualities while the quartet brings together the melodies in a contrapuntal foray that is astonishingly clever and fresh. The recording quality captures each instrument’s subtle character, and the quartet’s use of dynamics furthers the expressiveness of the recording. The music flows with a rewarding variation on the various themes combined with imagination to produce a beautiful movement. The Danish String Quartet preserved the essence of Beethoven’s music while enabling us to hear melodic lines from another well-known work. Giving us a different perspective.
Prism IV is a recording that will be enjoyed by fans of Bach and classical aficionados will enjoy hearing and recognizing the various themes skillfully and expertly combined. This is an outstanding recording and performance and should provide hours of listening pleasure.
Danish String Quartet
ECM New Series
June 3, 2022