MoMA if the curator just threw up random
And then there’s the folk music, a habit
picked up as early as 2004 when they played
a tiny Swedish folk chorale in a competition.
“We started doing arrangements ourselves and
incorporating them into concerts as encores,”
explains Sørenson. “It seemed these were the
pieces people recalled—I mean, you pour out
your heart in a Beethoven quartet and then you
play one little folk tune and that’s what people
Labels embraced the idea with Wood Works
(Da Capo, 2014) and Last Leaf (ECM, 2017),
both winning acclaim.
A complete Beethoven cycle will be a special
focus for 2020, the composer’s 250th year, one
that will see them crisscross the U.S. as part
of three different tours. He is also the focus
of their five-disc “Prism Project” for ECM,
the first fruits of which garnered them a 2018
Grammy nomination. Each disc mixes a Beethoven late
quartet with a 20th-century work and an arrangement of a
Bach fugue. And if you assume that four Scandinavian lads
will deliver testosterone-fueled Beethoven, think again—
their interpretations are among the most lyrical I know.
“Prism is not just pieces on a CD. The works are related
to each other,” explains Øland. “It makes the music very
human. It’s not just masterpieces that have fallen down
from the sky, it’s people who have inspired each other—
even stolen from each other—and made them their own.”
As for the beer: “It’s magical after a concert,” Sjölin
declares with relish. And the beards? “I guess it started with
just not shaving,” he jokes. “I think we would look pretty
much the same no matter what business we were in, but we
do appreciate a good, full-grown Canadian scarf!”
Asked to define their own strengths, they cite humor
and normality. “We have always laughed a lot and never
taken anything particularly seriously,” explains Nørgaard.
“This can be helpful in a classical-music world that is
sometimes too serious for its own good. We have always
been ‘normal’ Danish boys with the quartet somewhere in
the background. It had to fit into our lives and minds; we
didn’t try to squeeze ourselves into a conception of what a
string quartet is and should be.”
As recipes for success go, that one sounds simultaneously
simple and deep. Just like the DSQ. •
Clive Paget is a New York-based freelance arts writer and
critic, and editor-at-large for Australia’s Limelight Magazine.
He writes for Musicalamerica.com and Opera News, and was
music theatre consultant at London’s National Theatre from
2002 to 2007.
Performing at String Theory at the Hunter, Hunter Museum of American Art,
Chattanooga, TN, October 2017. Photo: Jeanette Hopkins.
At the Grammy Awards presentation on February 10, 2019, where
they contended for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
Photo: John Shearer.
of the year Danish String Quartet