The Danish String Quartet, one of the most widely-acclaimed chamber groups of the present moment, makes its first recording for ECM, with a programme of Danish and British music. The pieces featured here, all written when the respective composers were each barely into their 20s, have retained a freshness and intensity vividly conveyed in the Danish String Quartet’s energetic and assured interpretations.
Per Nørgård’s Quartetto Breve (1952), Hans Abrahamsen’s 10 Preludes (1973), and Thomas Adès’s Arcadiana (1994), represent first forays, for each of the composers, into the world of the string quartet. The Nørgård quartet appears to reflect the influence of Bartók, as well as the lean tonality of Nørgård’s teacher, Vagn Holmboe. Nørgård would become an influential teacher in his own right, and Hans Abrahamsen, one of his most talented pupils, was inspired by the minimalism which the older composer had drawn into his music. In his 10 Preludes, Abrahamsen gives to his pulse patterns a modal colour deriving from folk song, a musical resource with which the Danish String Quartet can readily identify.
“We may feel,” writes Paul Griffiths in the liner notes, “that the precision of nuance, the warm and intelligent closeness of voices and the command of form these musicians bring to Abrahamsen as to Nørgård comes from some common heritage or sympathy, and yet the same fine qualities shine through their performance of the Adès piece, Arcadiana. They even have very effective ideas of their own here, such as the expressive tremulation they bring to the ensemble glissando early in the middle movement.” Adès’s Arcadiana is a kaleidoscopic fantasy in which “metres are prone to slip and slide, chords to mutate in meaning, disintegrate or dissolve, all within a scintillant harmonic world that, though partly shared with traditional forces, is the composer’s own.” (ECM Records)