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Dacapo - The National Music Anthology of Denmark

Format:  SACD

Catalogue Number:  6.220521

Barcode:  747313152162

Release month:  Mar 2007

Period:  Early 20th Century


Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Vol. 1

05 August 2007  New York Times
Anthony Tommasini

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 to run.

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 works.

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.

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