Magazine article Gramophone

Gudmundsen-Holmgreen 'Complete String Quartets, Vol 1'

Magazine article Gramophone

Gudmundsen-Holmgreen 'Complete String Quartets, Vol 1'

Article excerpt

Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

'Complete String Quartets, Vol 1' String Quartets--No 1; No 2, 'Quartetto facile'; No 3, 'Five Small Studies'; No 4; No 5, 'Step by Step'; No 6,'Parting' Nordic Quartet

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Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen wrote his first three string quartets in 1959 and his 14th and last in 2013, three years before he died. This first volume in a new cycle comes from an ensemble coached by Tim Frederiksen (he who gave us the Nightingale Quartet) at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. The Nordic Quartet gave their graduation performance at the Academy last autumn.

It's revealing to see how this ultra-distinctive composer's voice was formed over the course of the first six quartets, all presented here (though not in order). PGH took in Fartein Valen-style serialism in No 1, a calmly piloted Andante of eight minutes. No 2 is focused but conventional, with some signs of the future in its trickery and itchy-scratchy Allegretto. No 3 is a series of short studies, not unlike Webern's Bagatelles, which can sound complex but are grounded by simple rhythms. By No 4 of 1967, PGH is approaching that laconic simplicity and childlike mixture of wonder and naivety that would colour so many of his masterpieces. It's like a stretch of gauze that reimagines the chirping of cicadas.

Nos 5 and 6 are recognisably PGH in an instant--music apparently carried by an animal instinct that the composer is barely able to tame, and that's always more enchanting than shocking despite how it looks on the page. …

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