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Dacapo - The National Music Anthology of Denmark

Format:  SACD

Catalogue Number:  6.220522

Barcode:  747313152261

Release Date:  Apr 2008

Period:  Early 20th Century

Review


Carl Nielsen: String Quartets Vol. 2

10 August 2008  New York Times
Anthony Tommasini

Last year the Young Danish String Quartet, founded in 2001 by four students in Copenhagen, released the first volume of a survey of the four published string quartets and the string quintet by Carl Nielsen. The dynamic performances made a strong case for seldom-heard works by Denmark's best-known composer.

Volume 2 has just been issued, and the impassioned, insightful performances again shed light on fascinating repertory. Nielsen, who died in 1931 at 66, is usually associated with early-20th-century nationalist composers. Yet, a self-described free spirit, he set himself apart from his safely folkloric compatriots.

His boldest experiments came with works written from the early 1900s on. Most of the F minor Quartet (1890) was written by the 25-year-old Nielsen during his first trip outside Denmark, to Germany and elsewhere. The teeming, late Romantic, fitful music, with its elusive scherzo and volatile finale, was a little too radical for the esteemed composer and violinist Joseph Joachim, who greeted Nielsen in Berlin. Unbowed by the master's reaction, Nielsen took the quartet home, where it caught on with performers and critics.

Some of those same critics were perplexed by Nielsen's next quartet, in E flat, written and revised in the late 1890s, complaining that its ''convoluted'' contrapuntal writing would be appreciated only by connoisseurs. Here the music comes across as daring, with its jagged rhythms and obsessive repetitions. The restless Andante, with hauntingly expansive melodic writing, breaks into a wonderfully strange (and hardly convoluted) fugato.

These Danish players have excelled in performances of works by Brahms, Mozart and Bartok in New York in recent years. But they play Nielsen's quartets as if they owned them. Still in their mid-20s, they should be able to keep calling themselves the Young Danish String Quartet for at least another decade.



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