Anyone listening to the Danish String Quartet for the first time on Friday evening didn’t have to wait long to figure out what all the raves have been about. From the start of the opening work, Haydn’s Quartet in C (Op. 54, No. 2), to its hushed ending, the group exhibited a remarkable smoothness and balance that left ample room for strong individuality.
Alert to Haydn’s many surprises and twists, the players — Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Oland, violinists; Asbjorn Norgaard, violist; and Fredrik Sjolin, cellist — lent a deeply, almost comically, tragic cast to the little trio section of the Menuetto.
Then, happily, they seconded the Danish National Symphony, which at its recent Carnegie Hall appearance proselytized for their great compatriot Carl Nielsen, performing his Quartet No. 4. Here the individuality came to the fore in an imaginative display of tone colors, the quartet making a wholly persuasive case for a powerful work seldom heard hereabouts.
Only in the final piece, Brahms’s burly Piano Quintet, with Jon Kimura Parker as pianist, did the Danish players show their age, or rather their youth. As Mr. Parker tried to stir drama in the opening movements, the quartet seemed still to be concentrating on beauty and blend of sound, an unusual approach to this music, though one not without its rewards. But the Scherzo and the Finale seemed to pull the performers together in common purpose and passion, bringing the concert to a triumphal conclusion.
JAMES R. OESTREICH