Andrew Mellor talks to the Danish Quartet as they embark on their 20th-anniversary season
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It was an unusually hot afternoon in Copenhagen in July 2002 when four adolescent boys hurtled on to a stage at the Charlottenborg gallery to present themselves as a new string quartet. ‘Our coach told us to walk on stage quickly,’ remembers one of them. In fact, the velocity of their entrance became one of the concert’s unintended talking points. ‘It was like we really needed to show some authority,’ says another of the four with a laugh. ‘“Here we are!” We certainly took that advice literally.’
This was the debut of what called itself the Young Danish String Quartet, ‘young’ being the operative word. Three of the four had yet to enrol at a conservatoire. They knew each other from summer courses and football kickabouts – a group of teenagers discovering, in tandem, a burgeoning passion for playing music written many decades before they were born; four kids caught in the slipstream of an esoteric tradition considered the preserve of far older, more serious and more experienced musicians.
‘My mum just sent me this,’ says violist Asbjørn Nørgaard, proffering his phone, which displays a photo of the occasion: four red-faced lads in sweat-patched white shirts. ‘It felt like Carnegie Hall to us,’ he says. ‘We took it so seriously, writing our biographies in the formal style even though there was nothing to put in them. Very cute! I remember Rune [Tonsgaard Sørensen, violinist] leaning over to me just before we went on stage and asking me if I ever got nervous. “No, I never get nervous,” I said, though of course I got super nervous. He looked at me and just said: “Good. It’s good to have someone who doesn’t get nervous.”’…
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