Danish String Quartet

Prism III: Beethoven, Bartók, Bach

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AllMusic Review byJames Manheim

The rather abstract-sounding title of this release by theDanish String Quartetcomes from a series; the "Prism" recordings select a lateBeethovenquartet and program it with an arrangement of a relevantBachwork as well as a later quartet from a composer who came under the influence of lateBeethoven. The idea is that the originalBachwork is refracted byBeethovenas if by a prism. It sounds like a slightly involved apparatus, and it is; the influence of the lateBeethovenquartets is nowhere near as direct as the group suggests in its note, and one can even argue thatBartókwas the first composer to really attempt to come to terms with them directly. This said, the importance ofBachin the music of lateBeethovenis large and arguably under-explored, and there are several strong draws here, not least the performance of theBeethovenString Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131. TheDanish String Quartetsharply highlights the juxtaposition of contrapuntal and folkish material in this work, and their performance feels strongly connected toBartók, who exploited the same contrast. Listen to the fifth-movement Presto of theBeethovento hear an example of the unusually light and joyous quality the group brings to this work, despite its heavy opening. ECM's sound, always impressive, could hardly be improved upon; the acoustic environment of an old indoor riding stadium results in clarity without the harshness of church environments or the over-intimate quality of some studio recordings. An intriguingBeethovenrelease that is both expertly executed and worthy of discussion.

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