Danish String Quartet to Perform in Madison April 18

The world renowned Danish String Quartet will perform here in Madison April 18 with a program of Schubert, Shostakovich, Britten, and arrangements of Danish folk songs.

The Quartet, which debuted in 2002, performs classical and 20th Century music and its own arrangements of traditional Danish folk songs. Quartet members are Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen and Frederik Øland, violins; Asbjørn Nørgaard, viola; and Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin, cello.

In addition to works by J.S. Bach and Beethoven, the group’s five Prism CDs include works by Bartok,  Shostakovich, Schnittke, Webern, and Mendelssohn.

The new release, Prism V, includes Bach’s chorale prelude Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit; Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major; Anton Webern’s 1905 String Quartet, (inspired both by Beethoven and Schoenberg); and concludes with Contrapunctus 14 from Bach’s The Art of the Fugue.

In an interview April 13, violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen previewed the quartet’s Madison April 18 performance at Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall in Memorial Union and commented on classical music radio.

For the Madison concert the quartet will play Haydn’s Op 20 string quartet in G minor. “It’s a great piece that showcases Haydn’s creativity in an amazing way,” Sørensen said.

“And the Shostakovich 7th String quartet, it’s the shortest of his 15 quartets, about 12 or 13 minutes long,” Sørensen said. “A very compressed piece of music, but with so much power and so much impact. It really leaves the listener breathless. That’s often the case with his music. It’s fun to play. It changes you when you hear it. It’s a privilege playing his music. He has an anniversary coming up in 2025 (the 50th anniversary of his death). We are playing more of his music to prepare for that year.”

“In Madison we also will play the Schubert Quartettsatz, which is a single movement that he thought should be a string quartet, but it never got that far.

“After the intermission we’ll play a selection of Danish folks songs, our own arrangements.”

I mentioned the scarcity of 20th Century music on classical music radio in the U.S. “The twentieth century is my favorite era of music history,” Sørensen said. “There are so many fantastic composers. They should be played more often. There might be fear of this kind of music, but . . . it’s easy to convince people to listen to the music of Benjamin Britten or Shostakovich. There’s nothing to be afraid of.  Only the opposite. Even Schnittke creates an incredible reaction in the audience when we play it live.

“But twentieth Century music works not only in a live concert; I think it works on radio too. It’s a matter of getting rid of the prejudice about contemporary music. It is very strong, and there are so many wonderful composers from the 20th century that should be played much more often.”  

Madison area community members and visitors can attend a free studio class 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 18 in Wisconsin Union Theater’s Shannon Hall in Memorial Union during which UW–Madison students will perform in front of members of the Danish String Quartet and receive feedback.


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