The Strad Issue: December 2014
Description: A young Scandinavian ensemble turns to the region’s folk roots
Musicians: Danish Quartet
Composer: Folk music

After recordings of Brahms, Haydn and two discs of Nielsen’s quartets, the members of the Danish Quartet – currently BBC New Generation Artists – turn their attention to entirely different music. ‘Wood Works’ is an obvious alternative route for a classical quartet from this corner of the world: a set of arrangements of traditional Scandinavian folk tunes. But this clearly lovingly crafted album is much more substantial than other string quartet side-projects. The four players – three Danes and a Norwegian – have developed a reedy, crystal clear group sound for this repertoire that evokes the mournful timbre of Nordic string playing. Closely recorded, the sound is dry but warm, picking up every turn of phrase in sharp detail.

First violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen leads a merry Danish jig, Sekstur from Vendsyssel/The Peat Dance, which culminates in a runaway, fingerboard-thumping cadenza. The Sønderho Bridal Trilogy whispers, glides and cajoles. In both joie de vivre and melancholy moments, the quartet’s performances feel authentic, but not slavishly so. The subtle but characterful arrangements do not stick to a single script. O Fredrik, O Fredrik is a rhythmically bustling piece of folk minimalism that develops into a genuinely funky jazz quartet. Swedish ballad Ack Värmeland, du sköna morphs into Schubertian Romanticism. Highly recommended.

Sound clip: Old Reinlender from Sønndala

Tim Woodall