Leah Hollingsworth hears the performance of Schubert, Adès and Nielsen at the Zankel Hall in New York’s Carnegie Hall on 18 April 2024


Mesmerising Schubert from the Danish Quartet and Johannes Rostamo (second right). Photo: Fadi Kheir

The inimitable Danish Quartet was joined by Finnish cellist Johannes Rostamo for a night of exquisite music-making at Carnegie Hall. The opening Allegro of Schubert’s magnificent C major String Quintet was mesmerising from the first chord – its energy, bow speed and vibrato all immaculately matched among the players. This movement was a study in unhurried elegance – every note, every phrase given with care and attention. The start to the Adagio was bravely quiet, while the F minor middle section was appropriately formidable. Joy and humour characterised the Scherzo, which was followed by a stately Trio. In the finale, delicate arpeggios contrasted with moments of rusticity to magical effect.

Thomas Adès’s Wreath (for Franz Schubert) received its New York premiere, a work that uses bowed inner voices while first violin and cello are pizzicato. The piece is constructed in such a way that each part reacts to another one, creating an almost meditative movement as the phrases ebb and flow, with no two bars replicating exactly the same harmonies or rhythms. Despite its complex structure, the Danish Quartet created a sound world that felt almost simple – and simply beautiful. The programme concluded with an arrangement of ‘Die Nebensonnen’ from Winterreise, played with exquisite beauty and generosity of sound, followed by an encore by Carl Nielsen – an arrangement of the melancholy song Underlige Aftenlufte performed with the same transcendent beauty that epitomised the entire evening.