Seen&Heard-Int 21/02/2023 : Treasure trove of surprises: the Danish String Quartet delights with works from Haydn to Elvis
..,Danish String Quartet has established itself as one of the most exceptional international ensembles playing today. Impeccable, highly disciplined and dynamic musicianship come with a relaxed, platform presence which communicates to audiences of all ages the joy, excitement, sadness and humour of chamber music.
Haydn – String Quartet, Op.20, No.3 - …The high-spirited opening Allegro, with its startling broken rhythms, dramatic pauses, and playful pizzicato were incisively played, while the wistful Minuet displayed the Quartet’s gorgeous richness of tone. ...
Shostakovich String Quartet No.7 - …A timorous, almost diffident Allegretto leads to a ghostly slow movement, brilliantly focused in this performance, in which the players were rarely required to play in unison. The third movement, a frenzied fugue played with exceptional vigour, was followed by a curious lilting waltz-like fragment of memory, …
… Britten’s Divertimenti for string quartet, with its spiky, irregular opening March, sunny and seemingly untroubled Waltz, and ecstatic Burlesque, were played with great elegance and finesse, and made a coherent choice with which to end the first half of the concert. Chris Sallon – Review in full
Boston Classical Review 28/01/2023 : From Haydn to Elvis, worlds cohere rather than collide with Danish String Quartet
…, there aren’t many groups like these charismatic Scandinavians. Each member is a virtuoso in his own right. However, their collective ensemble truly exceeds the sum of its parts: the ensemble playing is astonishingly unified in articulations, voicings, phrasings, dynamics, and spirit.
Haydn’s G-minor String Quartet Op. 20, no. 3; - …the Danes mined the humor in Haydn’s abruptness: there was an anarchic, almost Ivesian quality to the outer movements’ sudden endings. More significantly, the ensemble also underlined the rustic leanings of the second movement’s Trio and allowed the gorgeous Poco adagio to sing with unaffected naturalness.
Britten’s Three Divertimenti - The March’s jagged fragments brimmed with color and whimsy. So did the Waltz’s serenely folksy phrases, which also unfurled with a good bit of cheeky elegance. In the concluding Burlesque, devilish violin ostinatos gave way to full-ensemble moments of rhapsodic, jam session-like brio.
..second half, which was billed as a celebration of Nordic folk music in arrangements by members of the quartet.… The Danish’s setting of Turlough O’Carolan’s plaintive “Mabel Kelly” was beautifully affecting. So was the night’s highlight which all but brought time to a standstill with its pure, hymnlike violin and viola lines rising and falling over a prayerful series of chord progressions anchored by Schøyen Sjölin’s cello. ...One might add that there are simply two kinds of string quartets: the Danish, and the others. Jonathan Blumhofer – Review in full
WSJ.com 25/10/2022 : The String Quartet's Best Hope - With its technique, unity and wide-ranging repertoire, the Danish String Quartet—currently on a U.S. tour—gives new life to a faded form.
…So what accounts for their anomalous success? Great technique, naturally…. Even more important is the group's ability to unify in a way that doesn't stifle individual character....Their special qualities surface forcefully in both live performance and on their excellent, smartly programmed recordings…
... the players not infrequently fill out programs with their own arrangements of folk tunes from their native Scandinavia, as well as, more recently, from the British Isles. A mix of laments, ballads and high-stepping drinking songs, the often-anonymous tunes leaven the high-mindedness of other works on the program without diminishing the integrity of either.
...maybe it was the robust tone and unflagging concentration of these hardworking musicians. Whatever the reason, the effect was mesmerizing …. David Mermelstein – Review in full
The Classical Review 30/01/2023 : From Haydn to Elvis, worlds cohere rather than collide with Danish String Quartet
…Each member is a virtuoso in his own right. However, their collective ensemble truly exceeds the sum of its parts: the ensemble playing is astonishingly unified in articulations, voicings, phrasings, dynamics, and spirit. …
All of this set the stage for the night’s second half, which was billed as a celebration of Nordic folk music in arrangements by members of the quartet. …Each of the eight numbers were announced from the stage and played with a tremendous measure of energy and style. They covered much expressive terrain.
… The Danish’s setting of Turlough O’Carolan’s plaintive “Mabel Kelly” was beautifully affecting. So was the night’s highlight—an unnamed original composition that came just before the end—which all but brought time to a standstill with its pure, hymnlike violin and viola lines rising and falling over a prayerful series of chord progressions anchored by Schøyen Sjölin’s cello.
…But drawing facile connections between contrasting genres and styles felt far removed from the evening’s purpose, especially given the quartet’s fresh, joyful, and exuberant stage presence. Rather, the Danes, with their visually laid-back but musically locked-in manner, seemed to be subtly emphasizing the arbitrariness and ultimate pointlessness of common musical distinctions. As if to stress that view, they ended the night with a ravishingly beautiful encore of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
Especially with the latter, they made their point—and channeled Duke Ellington. “There are simply two kinds of music,” the jazz master famously offered, “the good kind and the other kind.” One might add that there are simply two kinds of string quartets: the Danish, and the others. Jonathan Blumhofer - Review in full
La Libre.be 16/10/2022 : Une "Truite" vernie d’or à Flagey
Ce dimanche, Flagey a conclu sa Schubertiade par un feu d’artifice, par Julien Libeer et le Danish String Quartet.
… On traverse les pays nordiques et les îles britanniques dans un kaléidoscope d'ambiance, mais avec une uniformité de son qui à la fois impressionne - peut-on imaginer glaçage plus délicat ? -, mais aussi agace, tant ces danseries semblent animées de la même implacable bise froide.
Une salle folle de joie
Quintette en La majeur, le D. 667 - …
Ici aussi, les artistes du Danish String Quartet - l’un des violonistes regagne la salle et est remplacé par la contrebassiste Uxia Martinez Botana, formation oblige - donnent à entendre leur sonorité unique, lumineuse, précise et véloce, quasiment sans vibrato. La salle est finalement gagnée par cet élan et l’on se met à applaudir après le premier mouvement. Puis après le deuxième. Puis après le quatrième et à la fin, tout le monde se lève et hurle sa joie. Voilà comment finir en beauté. Camille De Rijck - Article
Gramophone September 2022 : CD Prism IV
….Not for the first time I find myself wondering as a counterfactual what the Adagio of the Ninth would sound like if orchestral ensembles could emulate the shared sense of purpose of quartets playing the ‘Heiliger Dankgesang’ ; also how the character of each late quartet would change had Beethoven added metronome marks as he did for the symphonies. All of which is to admire the stillness without stasis of the DSQ’s pulse for the movement and how they ease, phrase to phrase, between an unearthly pure tone and a warmer cantabile, never stretching the enveloppe to expressionist extremes. … The angelic play of the contrasting material of the ‘Heiliger Dankgesang’ as well as its sublime hymnody are elaborated in both inner movements of the Mendelssohn, lending unusual gravity as well as grace to the Intermezzo.
The finales of both quartets draw a directly comparable strenght and grit from the DSQ, with only Mendelssohn’s recitative sections tending forward a wiriness otherwise absent from full-blooded studio sound. In concert, anything after the relentless momentum of Op 132’s finale would be too much ; at home, the consummate breadth of Op 13’s introduction turns the page on a new chapter, and the DSQ make compelling storytellers. Peter Quantrill – Review
The Strad issue August 2022: Typically enterprising programme from one of today’s outstanding quartets
Imaginative programming and superb quartet playing make this an outstanding album. Each of these works is intricately constructed using time-honoured devices such as fugues, and within that intervallic and motific liaisons which forge cogency and continuity. These are elements that the Danish Quartet palpably cherish.….The quartet negotiates the juxtapositions in tempos and mood in the first and third movements with absolute mastery, and the range of articulation and gestural delivery is magnetic and compelling, with voicing astutely used to point harmonic sequences as we savour the piece’s swift-changing emotions.
Mendelssohn’s youthful quartet pays homage to Bach in its contrapuntal mastery, but equally to Beethoven in its Sturm und Drang qualities. Once again, the Danish Quartet projects the urgency of the music through dazzling technical mastery and ensemble, handling transitions of mood within movements with conviction. Joanne Talbot - Review in full
The Strad 5/07/2022 : Leah Hollingsworth hears an innovative programme of Charpentier, Adams, Blumenfeld, Schumann and Schubert at the Shriver Hall Concert Series - …Schumann’s String Quartet no.3 in A major opened the programme, and the players brought to its first movement a lilting warmth, and a clarity to the fugal second. The Adagio was well paced and deeply felt, especially from the violist, whose lush sound on the C string added depth and gravitas. The finale was given with due vigour. Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ closed the programme and complemented the Schumann in the way the dotted rhythms in the final movement harked back to the finale of that work. The four musicians also brought wonderful character to the first movement and were alive to the changing moods of the variation-form second.
To end, a wonderful encore: a folk tune from the group’s latest album featuring fast fingers from the first violinist and long lines underneath that built to a powerful close. Leah Hollingsworth – Review in full
The Guardian 11/06/2022 : Classical home listening: Danish String Quartet reach Prism IV
Prism IV (ECM) is the penultimate album in their series uniting a Bach fugue, a Beethoven quartet and a work by a later composer. Here, Beethoven’s Quartet Op 132 in A minor is preceded by Bach’s G minor fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier (arr. Emanuel Aloys Förster) and followed by Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No 2.
These players have a stated mission to keep the quartet repertoire fresh. They tackle Beethoven’s hallowed late work (which has the Heiliger Dankgesang, song of thanksgiving, in the third movement) with a sense of adventure and freedom rather than weighty reverence. Precise, lithe, flexible, their performance might not replace the many great interpretations out there – from the Busch to the Takács Quartets and beyond, depending on taste – but for vitality and humanity, keep this one by you. Fiona Maddocks – Review in full
Daily Telegraph 4/06/2022: Scandi fab four shine a light on Beethoven, Bach and beyond - Four Scandinavian musicians are changing the way we look at Beethoven’s genius with a series of recordings
…The DSQ is by now firmly established as one of the most exciting and adventurous of the young quartets on the current scene, and you only have to listen to their handling of the finale of the Beethoven work to see why – the contrasting moods and switched are handled magnificently – visceral and thrilling one moment, headstrong and joyful the next.
They can weave a spell as well – the famous adagio which Beethoven wrote as a “holy song of thanksgiving” after recovering from severe illness – is beautifully shaped and played with great sensitivity.
The performance of the Mendelssohn is equally impressive …. I cannot recommend this album and the previous Prism series highly enough. Steve Moffatt – Review in full
Santa Barbara Independent 1/05/2022 : Danish String Quartet at UCSB’s Campbell Hall
…the Danish String Quartet returned to resume the presentation of their A&L commissioned project, the Doppelgänger.
This undertaking aims at nothing less than a comprehensive reimagining of the core of the Romantic string quartet repertoire. Approaching one of the most significant quartets ever written as a source and inspiration, Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski took Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor, D. 810, “Death and the Maiden,” and built her response to it, Pige, to better express the maiden’s point of view.
These musicians have elevated string quartet music beyond the expectations of even the most discerning connoisseur, and it is a privilege to welcome them as frequently as we do. Charles Donelan - Review in full
New York Times 22/04/2022 : One Night, Several String Quartet Premieres
“Doppelgänger” Series - ...featuring the famous “Death and the Maiden” Quartet (D. 810) and Wennäkoski’s “Pige.”.
Nørgaard introduced “Death and the Maiden” as “almost the definition of the Romantic string quartet,” though you wouldn’t have guessed that at first in the group’s interpretation — a controlled accumulation that built toward a sprinting and desperate tarantella.… Sørensen, as the first violin, was a stand-in for the Maiden, his articulation at the start delicate, even reticent. As the music becomes more animated, it lashes out and retreats, torn between fury and woe; the Danish players opted for restraint, their command of the score absolute but their passion understated.
In the 2nd movement, they revealed the power in Schubert’s pauses, particularly with a patient ending, like an attempt to prolong its moment of peace. ..At the coda of that tarantella finale, here impressively cohesive amid increasingly frantic chorales and unstable runs, Death arrives in a sudden minor-key turn, delivered in grandly Romantic fashion.
“Pige” -…Throughout, Wennäkoski balances extended technique and expressive lyricism, sometimes layering the two, but bringing the instruments together for affecting silences. …
... the Danish players returned with another arrangement: of “Der Doppelgänger,” the series’s namesake.
They referred to it as “one of Schubert’s best songs.” I’d agree, and add that it’s also one of his most terrifying, which they teased out by building on its harmonic ambiguity for a tension almost as discomfiting as the thought of death itself. Joshua Barone - Review in full
Palm Beach Daily News 31/3/2022 : Danish String Quartet wows crowd at Four Arts
The Danish String Quartet offered unique programming choices, beginning with Benjamin Britten’s “Three Divertimenti for String Quartet.” ….Each piece in the Britten set was a wonder of bowing precision and control that required difficult stops and chops of the bow. The players knew how to ring their instruments in the hall on releases to add extra effect. The final movement, the Burlesque, was technically perfect and equitably balanced in the instruments.
Schubert’s "Death and the Maiden" quartet (String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D. 810). Each movement was performed with fire and technical agility, with an astounding clarity of balance in the ensemble. Sarah Hutchings - Review in full
Bachtrack 13/09/2021 : Danish String Quartet presents sublime Schubert and Sørensen pairing
After these two rich works were embedded in our memory, Schubert's Der Doppelgänger provided a judiciously short conclusion, reuniting with sumptuous classical language, the concert's structure felt completed.
Combining the old with the new, the Danish String Quartet have set sail on a joyous voyage. With a relaxed and easy demeanour, their communication is direct. Through this Doppelgänger project reconciliation between both languages may be eased. And certainly – wow! Sørensen's work will surely assimilate into the classic repertoire. What a start to such an innovative and wide-ranging endeavour. Is it really that we must wait a whole entire year until the next episode? Rose Dodd - Review in full
Classical-music 13/05/2021 : CD Prism III
The Danish String Quartet’s Prism series is building into an exceptionally rewarding venture. …The remarkable precision of the Danish is apparent throughout, moving as one organism whether in the wilder moments of Bartók’s final movement or the slow-moving counterpoint that opens the Beethoven. The Danish bring a concentrated introspection to both opening movements along with a suitably disconcerting sense of the abstruse. …The shifts between shrouded mystery and full-throated outbursts in the Allegretto of the Bartók are gripping, while the more extrovert moments of the Beethoven find motifs are passed between the instruments with the flair and relish of expert jugglers. Bach’s fugue, in the same key that Beethoven’s quartet opens in, feels like an inevitable homecoming in a stimulating and compelling disc. Christopher Dingle – Review in full
The Whole Note 7/05/2021: CD Prism III
There’s a clear line here from Bach’s Fugue in C-Sharp Minor, with its four-note BACH motif, through Beethoven’s String Quartet No.14 in C-Sharp Minor Op.131, which starts with a fugue and a four-note motif, to Bartók’s String Quartet No.1, which also opens with a four-note motif and pays direct homage to the Beethoven. Outstanding playing and interpretation result in a terrific CD. Terry Robbins - Review in full
L’Echo 9/04/2021 : Danish String Quartet, un quatuor viking à l'abordage
«14e Quatuor op. 131» de Beethoven - ….Les sept mouvements s’enchaînent sans interruption, comme si les idées qui se bousculent, s’entrechoquent et se répondent n’autorisaient plus le moindre silence dans la tête d’un homme enfermé dans sa surdité. 40 minutes (!) d’émotion brute, admirablement sculptées par le Danish String Quartet, ce brillant quatuor viking …
…Ce troisième et passionnant volume de ce «Prism Project» s’achève donc, comme les précédents, sur une étonnante mais très convaincante adaptation d’une fugue du cantor extraite de son «Clavier bien tempéré». Qui fascinait Beethoven. Éloquente démonstration. Stéphane Renard - Article
Stretto.be 2/04/2021 : CD “Prism III Beethoven/Bartók/Bach” - Schitterend!
…Het is onvermijdelijk dat we ons werk baseren op wat we weten, als individu en als groep, maar het belangrijkste voor ons als muzikanten is dat deze verbindingen op een intuïtief niveau breed worden ervaren. We hopen dat de luisteraar ons zal vergezellen in het wonder van deze muziekstralen die helemaal van Bach via Beethoven tot in onze eigen tijd reizen.”
Prism III - … Zowel qua concept, interpretatie als samenspel, net zoals de andere 2, alweer een schitterende cd. Niet te missen. Michel Dutrieu - Artikel
NewYorkTimes 1/04/2021 : CD Prism III
… Minor keys color this album with a darker beauty than its predecessors, the tone set by the slow, mournful fugue at the start of Beethoven’s Opus 131. This recording isn’t eager to please. For all the mood swings of the work’s seven uninterrupted movements, the Danes are judicious about the emotions. The stark fugue thus aches more naturally than in other readings; pizzicatos, without added sweetness, ring with irony.
…Fugue in C-sharp minor (BWV 849) -… The group treats it as a searching, sorrowful colloquy, both an echo and an ancestor of the Beethoven and Bartok, ending with an exhalation of harmonious resolution. Joshua Barone – Review in full
LimelightMagazine 26/03/2021 : Scintillating Scandinavian string playing shines a new light on Beethoven's
…the Danish String Quartet don’t oversell such features, here allowing the first-movement fugue in the Beethoven to unfold like carefully partitioned mist, creating just the right sense of mystery and suspense for the following movements – whether galumphing, galloping, searingly serioso or spinning kaleidoscopically through a series of variations – to be heard with fresh ears and open heart.
The Bartók not only benefits from this superb opening gambit in the sense of “make it new”; also revealed is a passionate intensity and perhaps bitterness which is Beethovian in spirit. By the time we get to Bach’s sublime C Sharp Minor fugue – which this listener, and presumably most of you, will be used to hearing on piano, or possibly harpsichord – we’re in a different headspace, and hear in the unfurling of subjects and countersubjects, the dense polyphony and dramatic stretti, not just the ghost of a Renaissance ricercar but a prefiguration of Beethoven’s genius.
Fanciful, maybe; but it’s that kind of imaginative cohabitation which playing of the calibre of the Danish String Quartet’s makes possible. Will Yeoman – Review in full
Opusklassiek Maart 2021 : CD Prism III
…Het Danish String Quartet is een topensemble dat niet alleen een verfrissende kijk op deze partituren biedt, maar ook excelleert in volmaakt samenspel, intonatie, frasering en dynamiek. Het zijn vertolkingen die worden gekenmerkt door een eigentijdse benadering, zoals dat overigens ook geldt voor vrijwel alle, meestentijds nog vrij jonge ensembles. De winst is de precisie en de volstrekte helderheid in de stemvoering, ….
De opname is in de beste ECM-traditie: ‘fabelhaft'. Aart van der Wal - Artikel
Rondomagazin.de 13/03/2021 : CD „Prism III“ - Beethoven, Bartók & Bach
… Nahtlos knüpft man auch mit entsprechender gedanklicher Klarheit und Artikulation an den Geist der beiden Vorgängeralben an. Und dieses ineinander verknotete Wechselspiel aus komplex verdichtetem Konstruktivismus und poetischer Idee macht das Quartett einmal mehr mit einem ungemein körperreichen Ensembleklang plastisch und sinnlich erfahrbar. So muss erzählte Musikgeschichte klingen. Guido Fischer - Resenzion
Cadenza.nyc 19/02/2020: Danish String Quartet's Electric and Ecstatic Late Beethoven
..The melancholy fugue that opens the monumental Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131, emerges from the Danish String Quartet with their vibrato perfectly in sync. From dusky sighs of resignation to a wailing cry of desperation, the ensemble shapes the movement with patience and emotional ambition. The six movements unfolding continuously from there reward that patience with moments of intense release, and balance that emotional ambition with sour humor and bristling anger.
.... The Quartet’s breakneck tempo highlights the movement’s manic quality. When the players — in what was an avant-garde technique in Beethoven’s time — all bow sul ponticello, we hear a ghost, suddenly appearing from another plane of the universe, then quickly rushing back to earth, jolting us back to reality. For a moment, it felt like the air in Alice Tully Hall had been sucked out in a vacuum, taking our breath away.
The Quartet in F Major, Op. 135 - …Here too, the Danish String Quartet plays with virtuosic electricity, witty humor, and in the slow movement, Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo, lyrical directness and simplicity. The audience, many of whom had witnessed the quartet’s complete cycle, leapt to their feet in gratitude. Like a pair of great plays that encapsulate the universe of human experience, it was an evening to be savored and contemplated. Brian Taylor – Review in full
NYTimes 19/02/2020: Beethoven at 250 - A Quartet Sets a New Standard for Beethoven Marathons
17 Works, 9 Hours, 10 Days
From the first phrase of the opening work, the Quartet in D (Op. 18, No. 3), the blissfully lyrical violin melody, soaring over seemingly supportive harmonies in the other strings, sounded cozy and alluring, …
It’s difficult to explain what makes the Danish String Quartet’s playing so special. Other ensembles arguably match these players in technical excellence and interpretive insight. To say that their performances represent a marvelous balancing of qualities suggests that they occupy some place in the middle of the road. The results are anything but: There is a winning mix of studied concentration and willful freedom in their playing… That came through during this entire series.
Their technical command resulted in precise execution. Yet they played with enough leeway to allow instinctive responses to take over in the moment. You might assume that musicians in their 30s would bring youthful energy to bear, but I was struck by how often they opted for a raptly restrained tempo. Rhythms were dispatched with clarity and exactitude, without a trace of rigidity.
They have a shared sensibility and richly blended sound. But that doesn’t stop their individual musical characters from continuously shining through….
They ended the Quartet No. 13 in B-flat (Op. 130) with the original finale, the Grosse Fuge, … That section still comes across like the fugue to end all fugues, with outbursts of sputtering rhythms, obsessively hammered attacks and tangles of wayward counterpoint. As played here it sounded audacious, extreme and, finally, exhilarating. Anthony Tommasini – Review in full
Vulture.com 13/02/2020: Why I’d Rather Hear the Danish String Quartet Than Any Other Foursome
Midway along the Danish String Quartet’s journey through Beethoven’s life, the players led the audience into a dark wood. The ninth quartet (Op. 59, No. 3) opens in dissonant despair, each crushing chord dropping inexorably onto the next. Then, in a classic feint, the apparently endless slough suddenly opens into a bright C major clearing. When the Danes pivoted from gorgeous misery to a blithe dance, you could practically hear the audience in Alice Tully Hall gasp in relief. The players delivered each phrase as an utterance that had just sprung to mind. They seemed genuinely curious to know what came next, to keep up with the composer’s mercurial thoughts.
…Performing the complete Beethoven quartets in 11 days is a maven’s mountain. This series, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is packed with listeners who can compare and contrast these performances with those of the Juilliard, Tokyo, Berg, and Emerson Quartets. The Danes seemed unfazed by all the reverence.
….The midpoint concert ended with the final fugue of the C Major quartet (Op. 59, No. 3), executed at fighter jet speeds with an astounding mixture of nonchalance and intensity. The separate strands unspooled, overlapped, and intertwined, the notes slipping through their fingers like tiny knots, so that it seemed like the whole thing would have to end in an exhilarating tangle on the floor. When they were done, the audience jumped with the thrill of having witnessed such a thing. And so the group sat down and played the movement again as an encore, as if to say: We could do this all night. We’re still the last guys standing. Justin Davidson – Review in full