[Review of the cd]
Strange things happen to simple basic numbers when they come in contact with Nielsen's quartets. This fine set brings us, in the following sequence, quartet #2 op5 and quartet #1 op13. How this opus-numbering comes about is something you can find out from the liner note, although that itself is no light undertaking. Why this sequence of presentation is as it is can probably be inferred too, but the way I have chosen to trace Nielsen's development as a writer of quartets is to follow the order of their original inspiration, so I play tracks 5-8 before tracks 1-4. This puts me in the right frame of mind for proceeding to the two later quartets, numbered #3 and #4 unambiguously and presented in that order but issued as `vol 1' of another 2-volume set. It all pushes to the back of my mind the thought that this was not even the performance I ordered in the first place, but I don't regret that because this one is a real discovery and I welcome the chance to give it its first review notice here.
The performers are four young women. They are new artists to me and the liner tells us a little about them. The Norwegian recording is from as long ago as 1995 apparently, but the sound quality is well up to 3rd millennium standard. The tone the players produce is rich and sonorous, well suited to these earlier quartets which are more romantic in idiom than their two later counterparts. The players' technique is unerring, and the Nielsen they offer me is Nielsen as basically I know him - original but curiously impersonal if that does not sound like a contradiction in terms. His inspiration is strong and true, it is his own and not obviously based on any other composer or school, but I would never feel confident of recognising some work previously unknown to me as being Nielsen's in the way I could hardly fail to recognise his contemporaries Sibelius, Elgar, Strauss or Mahler who also stuck with `classical' harmonisation. Certainly Nielsen went in for quirky effects at times, but there is very little of that in these early compositions, and in any case that sort of thing is not my own idea of what constitutes a personal idiom.
Anyway, taking Nielsen as I find him, he gets sympathetic and understanding treatment from the Vertavo Quartet. Devotees of repeat-observance will be pleased to find that this feature is incorporated here, but even so the total playing time is still slightly short of an hour. What should keep you occupied for a bit longer if you feel so inclined is the liner essay, which is distinctive not to say downright peculiar. There are ten pages of it, and to call it discursive would underplay the description. `Vagrant' would describe it better because it is all over the place, but it is actually quite informative and thoughtful too in a ponderous sort of way.
All in all I call it a lucky strike that I got sent the wrong disc, because I am very taken with what I have got here and recommend it wholeheartedly. Like many other music lovers (I suppose) I am not over-familiar with the Nielsen quartets, and when belatedly adding them to my collection I have chosen to have different artists bringing me the first two and the later two pieces. This tactic has worked out for me, because I am similarly enthusiastic about the oddly numbered vol 1 that I also have from the Oslo Quartet. However that is another story.
- Original Release Date: 6 July 1999
- Release Date: 6 July 1999
- Label: Simax Classics
- Copyright: (C) 1995 Simax Classics
- Total Length: 58:23
- ASIN: B001ERQ8ZE
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item