THE STRAD RECOMMENDS
The Strad Issue: February 2018
Description: Atmospheric arrangements of Nordic fiddle dances for string quartet
Musicians: Danish Quartet
Works: TRAD Nordic dance tunes; and music by Sjölin and Sørensen
Catalogue Number: ECM NEW SERIES 4815746
Following its first disc of Nordic folk music (Wood Works, reviewed December 2014), the Danish Quartet has moved to ECM and recorded a disc of contemporary British and Danish music (reviewed August 2016). It now returns, on ECM, to its successful side project with Last Leaf, an album that, like Wood Works, arranged Nordic traditional tunes in string quartet format.
New for this album, there are touches of extra instrumentation: cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin plays the double bass at times, while first violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen doubles on harmonium, piano and glockenspiel. A second development is a number of pieces composed from within the group (three by Sjölin and one by Sørensen), demonstrating the quartet’s immersion in this music. Otherwise, though, Last Leaf picks up where Wood Works left off: well-paced arrangements of myriad dance tunes from across the Nordic countries – from more refined waltzes and minuets to the wilder fare of polskas and reels.
Across all the pieces, the quartet’s crystalline sound (in a well-balanced recording) conjures a magical atmosphere and nods to the strident tone of Nordic fiddle playing.