An intellectually and emotionally stimulating evening with the Danish String Quartet

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
The Danish String Quartet made their third appearance at the Princeton University Concerts Series on Thursday, November 2, 2023. 
Frederik Oland (violin), Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen (violin), Asbjorn Norgaard (viola), and Fredrik Sjolin (cello), presented works by Henry Purcell (1659-1695), Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), and Folk music arranged by and announced from the stage by the players. 
The audience this crisp evening were keen to hear and see these talented gentlemen in this astonishingly varied program. The four lovely men could seduce half of Princeton, even without their immense talents. Boyishly attractive, they all belied the fact that they were celebrating their 20th anniversary together. Mr. Oland (we believe) was slight of build, with a shock of blond hair falling over his brow, his sleek physique perfectly limned by his choice in textiles. So, too, with the others.  Violist Asbjorn Norgaard bore close resemblance to a Viking of old, with a bold head of hair, conquering listeners with his artistry.  Mr. Sorensen, on violin, bore a close resemblance to Thor, the God of Thunder, without a hammer, but in its place a violin. He shone especially in the Shostakovich. Mr. Sjolin was indefatigable in his cello  playing, creating an aurora borealis of sound shimmering about the stage. 
The Chacony in G Minor (arranged by Benjamin Britten) began the evening. It was a lovely beginning. Next was Haydn’s String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 20, No. 3 (1772). There was no comparison between the two. The Danes played the Haydn with fiery passion, emotional abandon, and suavity of phrase. Seldom do we hear how revolutionary Haydn was in his string quartets. Here we clearly understood. The quartet’s dramatic interpretations highlighted pauses, silences, and eloquent phrasing often not found in playing by others. Altogether amazing. The third piece was Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 108 (1960). Yet again, the Danish String Quartet surprised. Thanks to Lucy Caplan’s informative program notes, we find that the composer created it as a memorial tribute to his dead first wife. As in the Haydn, their playing featured vast emotional range this time in a kaleidoscope of grief. Ms. Caplan explained Shostakovich’s “knocking” motif with additional eerie elements throughout to a jittery, dark conclusion. Many in the audience thought that this music would make for a great work of modern dance. 
The second half of the evening featured Scandinavian folk music. The Danish String Quartet has recorded folk  tunes, songs, and music, many of which they shared with the delighted audience. Truly a night of variety and music making of the highest caliber. 
The Princeton University Concerts Series continues until well into 2024. In addition to soloists, recitals, and special events, The Richardson Chamber Players are onstage November 19 and March 24. For information, call 
609-258-9220, or visit .

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