The Danish String Quartet delighted audiences last Sunday afternoon with their performance of Haydn, Beethoven and the little-known Schnittke. TU Professor Dr. Danny Arthurs gave a pre-concert lecture on how Haydn’s use of the string quartet influenced his student, Beethoven and talked through the structures of all three of the works, including the post-modernist Alfred Schnittke.
The concert began with Haydn, the father of the string quartet, responsible for the now-quintessential chamber ensemble. The “Quartet in C Major” featured rosy, rich textures contrasted with light, rustic, and charming dance structures, to the audience’s delight.
The first act concluded with a stunning performance of Schnittke’s “String Quartet No. 3.” Before beginning this dramatic piece, the violist, Asbjørn Nørgaard, introduced the composer’s struggles with mental illness and “seeing ghosts” (often musical greats) with the audience.
The “Quartet No. 3” makes use of themes from Beethoven’s “Der Grossse Fuge” and de Lassus’ “Stabat Mater,” and the quartet kindly demonstrated what the audience should listen for before they began the piece. The work itself is full of drama, neurosis, and pain. Trills on minor seconds, furious tremolo and wailing glissandi showcased the musical talents of the Danish String Quartet while providing an insight into the troubled mind of the composer. At one surprising punctuation in the second movement, the first violinist broke several bow hairs in his furor. At the conclusion of the piece, the music dies away to nothing. The audience was so spellbound by the performance that they sat in pin-drop silence for a full ten seconds before breaking into sounding applause and giving the Danish String Quartet a well-deserved standing ovation.
The second half of the concert consisted of Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 7 in F Major,” which filled the hall with Beethoven’s incredibly varied use of the colors that a string quartet can produce. The Danish String Quartet performed it with vigor and authority, to another standing ovation, this one lasting for several minutes. After leaving the stage and returning three times while the applause rolled on, they finally acquiesced and performed an encore. The encore was a traditional Danish folk tune that they had arranged for string quartet. The beautiful, hymn-like folk tune calmed the excited audience and the members of the string quartet left the stage for the final time to yet another standing ovation. It was obvious from their postures that the two hours of music they had just performed were both physically and emotionally draining, especially considering that they had performed in a private concert the night before. On Monday, the Danish String Quartet visited Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa to perform for the students there.
Every year since 1954, Chamber Music Tulsa has presented the best in chamber music live to the Tulsa area. Ensembles ranging from world-renowned string quartets and piano trios to more novel chamber ensembles perform in six concerts each season. Student tickets are a mere $5 for the Sunday afternoon concerts, and if a concert isn’t sold out, TU students can often get in for free with their student ID.