Classical review: Danish String Quartet, Edinburgh

This brilliantly-conceived programme showed off the remarkable versatility of the Danish String Quartet as they strode effortlessly across centuries, dissolving all barriers of categorisation to present the musical universe as one seamless continuum.

At the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
At the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

Danish String Quartet | Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh | Rating *****

The musicians set the scene with Per Nørgård’s jewel of a piece String Quartet No 1, ‘Quartetto breve’, revelling in the dissonant double-stopping and cool edgy rhythms, the antithesis of Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E Flat Major.

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With Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen swapping his violin for a viola in this work, soloist Alec Frank Gemmill was enveloped by the sumptuous warmth of the lower strings which he matched with his mellifluous horn tones. Frank Gemmill also impressed with his ability to hold back the volume without compromising a single note.

Swans Kissing is a great title and the Quartet’s world premiere of Rolf Wallin’s fractal-based new work was breathtaking, beautifully evoking the flight of these creatures in tense slow-motion.

After a whisper of flapping of wings, double-stopping based on diverging and converging harmonies, slightly reminiscent of the Nørgård, gradually took the music on an ever upward trajectory. The ‘kiss’ comes halfway through as the strings dance with gravity, wheeling and shimmying earthwards into the final silence.

It was impossible not to hear echoes of Wallin’s soundworld in Beethoven’s String Quartet in E minor Op 59 No 2 ‘Razumovsky’, especially the adagio when the composer looks heavenward to conjure up the music of the spheres. The Quartet almost make time stand still in this awe-inspiring performance.