Danish String Quartet New Music

Reviews
24 May 2016 / SFGate

Danish String Quartet New Music

The Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen has been in the spotlight of late, thanks to the success of his chamber work “Schnee” and the extraordinary orchestral song cycle “Let Me Tell You.” But the ingenuity and clarity of that recent work goes all the way back to the beginning of his career, as evidenced by his early String Quartet No. 1, “10 Preludes.” Each movement in this collection of short character pieces from 1973, which caps the infectiously appealing new release from the Danish String Quartet, creates a distinctive landscape out of a few simple thematic ideas, and in each case Abrahamsen works out the implications with winning simplicity. Nothing is wasted, but at the same time the music has a humanistic robustness that marks a contrast to the austerity of midcentury modernism. The concision and rhetorical forthrightness of the “Quartetto Breve” by Abrahamsen’s teacher, Per Norgard, makes a fitting entree, and Thomas Adès’ gorgeously evocative “Arcadiana” — in a committed, slightly edgy performance — sets the recording on its suave course.

Joshua Kosman