The Danish String Quartet bring their highly acclaimed Prism project to its conclusion. In each volume of this series a particular Bach fugue is connected to a late Beethoven quartet which, in turn, is connected to a quartet by a later master: “A beam of music is split through Beethoven’s prism,” in the Danes’ words. “The whole approach invites active, committed listening,” The Guardian observed. “The group plays with virtuosity, intensity and tenderness.” The project has been eight years in the making. Now on the fifth and final volume, Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale prelude Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit “opens up like a flower” (as Paul Griffiths writes in the liner notes) to preface Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major. Anton Webern’s early String Quartet, composed in 1905 – and inspired both by Beethoven and Schoenberg – follows, and the programme returns to Bach with Contrapunctus 14 from The Art of the Fugue.
Acclaim for Prism V
New York Times – April 2023
The Danish String Quartet’s ‘Prism’ Is Essential Listening
By David Allen
Prism V came out earlier this month, and it completes a series that has come to mean more to the quartet than they might initially have expected. The eldest of the "boys" has now passed 40: The broad chords they played with such rich allure at the beginning of Op. 127, they write in the note for their most recent release, turned out not only to be "the entry gate to the promised lands of the late Beethoven quartets," but "the exit door from our life as a young string quartet.
What a prospect a "fully-fledged" Danish String Quartet, as they describe themselves now, will be, for these releases must qualify as some of the most essential listening of the past decade.
All the elements of the Danish style are here to behold, first among them their particular sound...The Danish play as if they have abandoned their individual personalities entirely to serve the collective — as if they were joined on a single instrument, armed with four bows.
The Danish String Quartet’s Prism project has been one of the most stimulating series of recent years.
The ensemble – as always with these players – is exemplary.
The subsequent performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F, the composer’s final word on the subject, couldn’t be bettered.
The Danes’ passionate reading is full of imaginative touches. Its wispy corners are skilfully negotiated with impressively pinpoint intonation.
Bach and Webern aside, this is a cycle that has exhibited an engaging individuality, a freshness of phrasing, and an overwhelming sense of rightness when it comes to Beethoven. That places these discs very high indeed on the list of modern interpretations.
Let’s hope ECM records the other 11 quartets soon.
Stereophile Magazine - July 2023
By Jason Victor Serinus
One of the DSQ's many skills surfaces when a quiet passage ends with an extended note in the first violin. They sometimes begin the note with straight tone before ending it with a fine, superbly judged vibrato. It's a technique more often embraced by jazz and pop instrumentalists and vocalists than by their classical counterparts. But when intonation is as perfect as it is on this recording, the opening of the blossom pulls you deeper into the beauty of the music.