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June 24, 2015
Danish Quartet: Adventurous and Infectiously Enjoyable

June 23, 2015
The London Evening Standard
By Barry Millington 

One after the other, four lithe young men sporting natty Scandinavian-type beards bounded on to the stage. The members of the Danish String Quartet, they were there to launch the City of London Festival, which they proceeded to do with panache.

The only conventional item in their programme was Beethoven’s String Quartet, op. 74 (The Harp), which certainly served to establish their credentials as an ensemble of exceptional accomplishment. Presenting the Second String Quartet, op. 5 in F minor, by their compatriot Carl Nielsen, they made an eloquent case for it, relishing its affecting lyricism and rugged stylistic innovations alike. Rather as Beethoven fashioned original structures from common- place materials but forging them anew, so Nielsen was unafraid to disconcert the ear of his contemporaries with irregularities of phrase and harmony. The ensemble delivered the work with the impulsive spontaneity required.

Having introduced themselves with engaging spoken interspersions, they succeeded in carrying the audience after the interval with something even more unexpected, in the shape of Nordic folk pieces they had arranged themselves. These included a bridal suite from the Faroe Islands, Danish jigs and reels, a waltz from the Swedish forest, and a Norwegian dance that breathed the spirit of jazz a century or two before its time.

Taking their bow at the end, the players seemed genuinely delighted that these pieces which they have discovered and presented anew gave as much pleasure to their audience as to themselves. Adventurous, unfamiliar and infectiously enjoyable: perfect festival fare.

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