Adès/Nørgard/Abrahamsen: Works for String Quartet CD review – grace and grit

Among all the dauntingly good young string quartets currently doing the rounds, the Danish String Quartet stand out: not because they’re shinier or plusher or pushier than the rest, but because of their nimble charisma, stylish repertoire and the way their light and grainy shading can turn on a dime.

Their last album was a set of winsome Nordic folk tunes; now comes this classy ECM debut with three bold early works by contemporary composers. Hans Abrahamsen described the exploded landscapes of his 10 Preludes as “short stories”; Thomas Adès called his Arcadiana “images associated with ideas of the idyll”, while Per Nørgard’s Quartetto Breve is seven handsomely sculpted minutes of almost-tonality. It’s an exacting programme requiring grace, grit and clarity and the Danish players sound terrific – lithe and glassy in the Abrahamsen, richer in the Nørgard, able to capture the picturesque watery shimmer of the Adès but also the slime and murk below the surface. It’s a sophisticated performance.

Link to the review