Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Vol. 1
05 August 2007
New York Times
The members of the Young Danish String Quartet met at a music camp
in rural Denmark. In 2001, with a push from Tim Frederiksen, a professor
at the conservatory in Copenhagen, they officially formed the quartet
while still in their teens.
Since then competition victories and successful tours have brought
the quartet deserved attention. And no member is yet over 25, so the
statute of limitations on the qualifier ''young'' in its name has a ways
A new recording of two string quartets and the String Quintet by
Carl Nielsen confirms the strong impression the group made in two New
York concerts over the last few years. These are youthful and energetic
performances. And the maturity and authority of the playing suggest that
national identity matters. These young Danes seem to have genuine
insight into the music of their country's best-known composer.
Nielsen, who died in 1931 at 66, is generally consigned to those
turn-of-the-century composers who resisted the radical upheavals
epitomized by Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Actually, in his way Nielsen
was a free spirit who protested against what he called the ''Danish
smoothing over'' in style. He introduced spiky harmony, roaming tonality
and unhinged rhythms into his strongly personal and often searching
Even in the early Neo-Classical Quartet in G minor the music has an
obsessive streak, especially in the restless scherzo. The Quartet in F,
composed in 1906 and revised in 1919, while also essentially
Neo-Classical, abounds with intriguing oddities: passages of aimless yet
haunting harmony and outbursts of splattering counterpoint.
For the early String Quintet in G minor, an elegant work with a
bittersweet Adagio, the young players are joined by their mentor, Mr.
Frederiksen. Clearly they were not too intimidated by his presence: Mr.
Frederiksen plays the second viola part.