Founded 12 years ago, the exceptionally talented Danish String Quartet is now regarded as one of the finest in Europe. Plaudits are unstinted and, judging by their program me here, these have not been misplaced.
Carl Nielsen’s Third Quartet dates from the end of the 19th century and, while grounded in tradition, it has also been described as ‘ courageously ambitious’.
Indeed, in some ways it prefigures his symphonic output while looking back to a period of classical refinement and, while Nielsen absorbed many influences of northers and central Europe, his music has its own individuality.
Occasionally the Third Quartet makes deeply involved demands on its players as its lines criss-cross in contrapuntal inventiveness, but, no matter how dense the textures, the visiting musicians ensure every note radiates translucent clarity.
They also emphasize the lamentation and anxiety in Nielsen’s slow movement against the delightful bounce they engage in his Allegretto pastorale with its contrasted and roughly hewn rustic presto trio section. Nielsen could hardly have more sensitive and dedicated advocates.
Haydn comes through one of his ‘Sturm und Drang’ (storm and stress) quartets – the F minor HOB II 35. The Danish String Quartet’s interpretations brings lightness of touch and a positively airy atmosphere to the music. Delicacy and finesse are the order of the movement.
Haydn’s Minuet is somewhat more serious in intent with the Danish cellist’s supportive lines having un understandable tinge of sadness. The visitors view his Adagio from a slightly faster perspective than expected but with playing so immaculately exquisite why quibble?
The scurrying, mostly sotto voce, Finale is remarkably lucid and Haydn’s contrasted fortissimo, when it comes, is all the more effective.
The Danes’ Beethoven is his continuously concentrated and unbroken seven-movement op 131. C sharp minor Quartet. They unfold page after glorious page of the composer’s serpentine tapestry with consummate artistry. This is music making of extraordinary quality.
There are hints of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony now and then, but the intensity of the music is masterfully understated.
Here is Beethoven at his most profound, but this late essay also finds him humorously conversational as well as defiant in the face of adversity. The Danish String Quartet conveys these attributes through superlative imagination, innate rapport and unfailing artistry.