In 2004 the Young Danish String Quartet, as it was then called, made an impressive New York debut at Scandinavia House. The players, who had met at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen, were certainly young: all under 21. They were also clearly accomplished and ambitious.
Since then the quartet has wisely dropped “young” from its name and, as the Danish String Quartet, has secured a position as a significant ensemble. In 2008 a Norwegian cellist, Fredrik Schoyen Sjolin, became part of the group, joining the violinists Frederik Oland and Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen and the violist Asbjorn Norgaard. The players are still young: all under 30.
A new recording, which pairs Haydn’s Quartet in D (Op. 64, No. 5, “Lark”) and Brahms’s Quartet in A minor (Op. 51, No. 2), makes clear why this fast-rising ensemble has been having such international success in recent seasons. This is one of the most stylish and spirited accounts of a Haydn quartet to come along in a while.
All the benchmarks of superior quartet playing are here: integrated sound, impeccable intonation, judicious balances. Scurrying passagework, especially in the perpetual-motion finale, is dispatched with fleetness and clarity.
But what makes the performance special is the maturity and calm of the playing, even during virtuosic passages that whisk by. This is music making of wonderful ease and naturalness.
Brahms’s Quartet in A minor is a hard piece to bring off, with its curious blend of noble sentiment and restless impetuosity. The Danish String Quartet conveys both the work’s arching structure and its moment-to-moment inventiveness. The players bring deep, rich Brahmsian sound to the passages with thick harmonic textures. Yet the playing is never weighty or dense.
A very fine recording.
By Anthony Tommasini, New York Times
HAYDN: STRING QUARTET IN D (OP. 64, NO. 5); BRAHMS STRING QUARTET IN A MINOR (OP. 51, NO. 2)
Danish String Quartet. Avi Music 8553264; CD.