Sunday 28 September 2014

The Danish String Quartet give terrific performances of their own arrangements of Nordic folk tunes, on a new release from Dacapo, recorded at the Kirsten Kjaer Museum, Denmark

Dacapo Records have recently released a recording by the Danish String Quartet of arrangement by them of traditional Nordic folk tunes entitled Wood Works.

The Danish String Quartet, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland (violins), Asbjørn Nørgaard (viola) and Frederik Schøyen Sjölin (cello), was founded in 2001 when the members were still students.

In their booklet notes the Danish Quartet tell us that they have borrowed and arranged some of their favourite Nordic folk tunes and let the music flow through the wooden instruments of the string quartet.

They visit the Faroe islands and the Danish island of Fanø for Ye Honest Bridal Couple/Sønderho Bridal Trilogy – Part I in which they provide some lovely harmonies in the hushed, beautifully evocative opening that develops through some exquisite passages with the Danish String Quartet bringing the most lovely sonorities. The music moves into a little dance rhythm, halfway, as we move into the Sønderho Bridal Trilogy with music that is absolutely beguiling.

Denmark provides Sekstur from Vendsyssel/The Peat Dance which opens with a syncopated rhythmic theme, nicely harmonised by the Quartet. It has an intoxicatingly unstoppable feel and, surely, some Scottish or Orkney connections. There is some terrific incisive, rhythmic playing with these artists right inside the folk element. For the Peat Dance we move into an even faster folk dance that is really intense.

Vigstamo was a small farm in the Gudbrand valley in Norway and Vigstamoin the name of the man who lived there. Pizzicato cello opens this tune with the other players lightly drawing their bows over their strings. A real tune emerges still with a vibrating pull on the texture in this attractive, slowly moving piece.

Waltz after Lasse in Lyby was a simple little waltz played by a travelling fiddler called Lasse who lived in Lyby in Sweden. The Quartet opens on harmonics before a wistful melody flows, beautifully and infectiously with lovely textures and harmonies from these players.

Ribers is a Danish tune, a polka full of fine string textures that soon leads into another unstoppable, forward driving piece. These players seem so natural in their ability to really throw themselves into this music. There is a terrific coda.

We return to the island of Fanø for Sønderho Bridal Trilogy – Part II an insistent yet gentle tune full of many little beauties. The entertainingly named, Five Sheep, Four Goats is a Danish tune discovered by one of the Quartet members, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen. It’s a terrific folk tune with a central slow section that brings a jazzy flugelhorn contribution over long held string chords, rising in richness and density.  

O Fredrik, O Fredrik written by a Swedish childhood friend of the Quartet’s cellist, Frederik Schøyen Sjölin opens with a hushed motif that darts around until developed into a syncopated theme, dancing forward, becoming quite free and jazz like.

The calm, flowing Ack Värmeland, du sköna has something of Grieg in its flavour, though it is in fact a Swedish folk song, full of lovely melody, sensitive textures and details and extremely finely played. This is a particularly lovely piece.

Pairing a Danish polsk with a tune by the Danish sailor and fiddler, Rasmus Strom, Easter Sunday has an appealing tune with something of a Scotch snap to its rhythm which develops and richens with some lovely moments before moving into Polsk after Rasmus Storm that has a faster rhythm pointed up by pizzicato cello and moves through some lovely harmonisation.

Lovely string sonorities open Jässpodspolska, a polska from Sweden that develops with some gorgeous string sonorities in another particularly attractive piece.

Old Reinlender from Sønndala came to Norway from the Rhineland. It has a curious opening with short string phrases over which a longer folk melody is played before building into a rumbustious dance theme, full of rhythmic bounce and sliding phrases. A hugely entertaining piece, brilliantly played.

We make our final visit to the Danish island of Fanø with Sønderho Bridal Trilogy – Part III, this time arranged by Nikolaj Busk, where, after a slow hesitant opening a lovely little tune is slowly revealed making an atmospheric conclusion to this disc.

The Danish String Quartet gives terrific performances of these lovely arrangements. They receive an extremely fine recording made at the Kirsten Kjaer Museum John’s Hall, Denmark and there are informative notes by the Danish String Quartet.

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