They call themselves “harmless modern Vikings.” These three Danes and a Norwegian make up the Danish String Quartet (DSQ), one of classical music’s most intrepid rising ensembles. The three Danish members met when they were just teens at a summer music camp where they would play football and collaborate musically for hours on end. After a personnel change in the ensemble, they added Norweigan cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin to the quartet and its current iteration was born. Celebrity Series audiences might remember them from their 2013 Debut Series concert when the quartet made their Boston debut and cemented their status as a strikingly intrepid chamber ensemble.
Violist Asbjørn Nørgaard says of their beginnings, “We started out playing string quartet in our early teens as an excuse to hang out, and on some level it is still like this. When you are with good friends, you don’t have to yell to be heard. It is the same playing chamber music with friends.”
The creative spirit the quartet brings to concert stages across the globe makes them uniquely qualified to bring an adventurous program to their Celebrity Series concert on January 28: three Beethoven string quartets juxtaposed with Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3.
“Schnittke, who is famous for his ‘polystylistic’ technique, created his third string quartet by mainly using material from Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Orlando de Lassus’ Stabat Mater,” Nørgaard says. “So the juxtaposition of the Beethoven and Schittke is quite obvious…the Grosse Fuge being one of the most frustrated and angry pieces of music ever written. Interestingly, the audience often finds the Beethoven Grosse Fuge more ‘modern’ and ‘difficult’ than the Schnittke.”
As part of DSQ’s commitment as an ensemble to music making and exploration, they founded the DSQ-Musikfest about a decade ago. This homegrown festival allows the DSQ members to experience a “creative playground,” as Nørgaard describes it.
“Basically we do everything: the programming, the fundraising, the rigging of the room, we build a bar, we pick up the beer we want to be served (or we brew it), we are the stage managers, we introduce the music etc…and this is maybe what makes the festival most unusual. Because we made everything, the room feels like our private living room. The audience is not an audience, they are our guests and everybody helps each other to get a good experience. Everyone is pretty relaxed and we believe that this is a prerequisite for truly experiencing the depth that is so unique in classical music.”
On January 28 the Danish String Quartet will make Jordan Hall their living room and Boston audiences will be their guests.
Danish String Quartet
Saturday, January 28, 2017, 8pm — NEC’s Jordan Hall
Tickets $30 and up