Wood Works: The Danish String Quartet
06 October 2014
"On this recording we have borrowed and arranged a selection of our favourite Nordic folk tunes and let the music flow through the wooden instruments of the string quartet." This explanation on the sleeve explains the contents of this disc. It is followed by the question "Does it work?"; to which I can only say that for me at least it emphatically does.
Arrangements of folk material, as well as of classical material in a folk style, are hardly a novelty, but they are done particularly well here. There is a considerable variety of treatment in the thirteen tracks, for only two of which are arrangers' names given.
The disc starts and ends in a pensive, even melancholy, mood but in between there is a mixture of lively and more atmospheric pieces. The notes set out the origin of each of the tunes on which the tracks are based, from the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Only occasionally are the arrangements in the style of more exclusively folk groups; rather, the quartet seek to give each item a very individual character using a variety of idioms but without resorting to a pastiche of classical styles. The result is a disc that can be played through with pleasure but without any sense of monotony - the besetting sin of many folk or folk-inspired discs.
There are a few miscalculations - the flugelhorn in the central part of "Five sheep, four goats" seems unrelated to and spoils the effect of the rest of the track. There are a few endings that suggest that the pieces were written originally as encores, but these are few and not of great consequence.
The disc offers short playing time but the quality is such that it would be churlish to complain. The answer to the Quartet's question "Does it work?" is certainly yes, and I hope that they will continue to mine this vein in future discs.