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The Danish String Quartet, at present the house quartet at both New York's Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society and BBC Radio 3, are taking the plunge as folk musicians with their new album on Denmarks national record label Dacapo, Wood Works. Theyre riding a wave of international success with classical quartet playing in the worlds leading concert halls from Lincoln Center to Wigmore Hall. The quartets video of an old bridal piece from Danish Sønderho has spread like wildfire on YouTube with more than 50,000 viewings. Theyre the darlings of the press with classical reviewers, and in February were proclaimed a hit ensemble in The New York Times, at the same time filling a whole page under the heading a hot Danish foursome in The New Yorker. Here, these four elite classical string players drop the sheet music and play traditional folk from small Nordic villages in Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Sweden. No strangers to standard classical repertoire, the Quartet debuted on Dacapo with a prizewinning CD of string quartets by Carl Nielsen.
The superb Danish String Quartet plays its own engaging arrangements of Nordic folk tunes, some with a melancholic tinge, like the opening "Ye Honest Bridal Couple" and the "Waltz After Lasse in Lyby." The arrangements are vividly etched, including "Five Sheep, Four Goats" (for string quartet and flugelhorn). Lively dance selections include the "Peat Dance" and a polka called "Ribers No. 8," which the ensemble describes as "one of the happiest Danish tunes that we know." --Schweitzer, New York Times
The members of the Danish String Quartet create music that works for the kitchen party or the concert hall. In either case, toes will be tapping. --CBC, Disc of the Week
The quartet mines a surprisingly varied range of moods, instrumental effects and color, and tempo. --Strings Magazine, December 2014
In the talented hands of the Danish String Quartet these 'Wood Works' - traditional Nordic folksongs and dances - are buffed and polished to a glossy concert-hall sheen. Contemporary arrangements galvanise --Gramophone
"It was a good year for Danish music, with excellent recordings of symphonies by Carl Nielsen, Per Norgard and Poul Ruders, plus two lovely albums of Rued Langgaard's string quartets. But the most striking of all is Wood Works, a musical journey through Nordic folk music guided by the extraordinarily gifted Danish String Quartet. "Sonderho Bridal Triology - Part II," with its colorful grooves, turns out to be a 400-year-old wedding song from the Danish island of Fano. There are stops in other Nordic hamlets for local versions of polkas and jigs, all played with such unmannered charm that you might wish the group would give up its usual diet of Haydn and Brahms." --Tom Huizenga, NPR Best Classical Albums of 2014
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“Folk music is the music of everywhere and everyone.” That’s the first sentence in the liner notes to Wood Works, a musically charming, tasteful and thoroughly well played homage to Scandinavian folk music. The variety of the pieces played is astonishing to someone like me, who has no prior experience with this music at all. (Actually, that’s not quite true. I did recognize “Ack Varmeland, du skona,” but only because I have it on two jazz albums under the title “Dear Old Stockholm.”) There are reels, waltzes, jigs and polkas, and one piece (“O Fredrik, O Fredrick”) that sounds at first like the Kronos Quartet playing Steve Reich. Some of the pieces are subdued and lyrical (cf. especially the three parts of the “Sonderho Bridal Trilogy”), others rollicking and rowdy. They even comment about “the funky possibilities” of the dance, “Old Reinlender from Sonndala,” which sounds like a particularly muscular schottische. This is one of the best albums of music I have heard in a long time. Everything is perfect in it: their choice of tunes, the harmonious blending and echoing of the violins, viola and cello, and above all, the musicians’ inspired decision to give their not always so simple native music an audience.
Catch them playing a selection of these tunes on YouTube to capture their obvious joy in performing these gems.