The Danish String Quartet play Bach, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn

Casual dress, shaggy haircuts, and untrimmed beards, and precisely sober and maturely disciplined playing

As the fourth entry in the ongoing Danish String Quartet’s Prism project, a CD recorded in the acoustically perfect Reitstadel Neumarkt, features Bach’s Fugue in G minor in an arrangement by Emanuel Aloys Förster, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.2.  

Providing well over an hour and three quarters of exquisite listening, the album is issued by the PRISM label even as the Danish String Quartet is on a tour of the United States and Europe.

There is something quite disarming in the contrast between the youthful look of the thirtyish four members of the Danish String Quartet – violinists Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violist Asbjørn Nørgaard and cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin – with their casual dress, shaggy haircuts, and untrimmed beards, and their precisely sober and maturely disciplined playing.

In this, their most recently released recording, the three Danes and one Norwegian deliver an accomplished reading of Beethoven’s 1825 String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, a work written before the Grosse Fugue and the final quartet in F major, op. 135.  The album is bookended by an elegant rendering of JS Bach’s Fugue in G minor and an impassioned performance of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.2., Op. 13.

The String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132 is structured in the traditional four movements with an insert just before the third movement on the manuscript of which Beethoven wrote in German Sacred Song in the Lydian Mode as Thanksgiving to the Deity from a Convalescent. Given its premiere barely two years before the death of the composer, make no mistake, this is profoundly sad, soul-searching music written by a lonely man in the throes of an ailment that would take his life.

The String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13, was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1827, when the composer was 18. It is the composer’s first mature string quartet, coming not long after the great Octet. One of Mendelssohn’s most passionate works, this composition pays subtle homage to Beethoven’s late string quartets – a youthful gesture from a young master-in-the-making to a recently deceased giant.

As with the Beethoven and the Bach, the Danish String Quartet perfectly balances head and heart in their interpretation of Mendelssohn’s music, although here the quartet’s execution of music by a young firebrand Romantic allows these four superbly accomplished musicians to cut loose with muscular bowing and bold phrasing.

Rafael de Acha ©2022

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