When musicians from the world of serious music access light music, there is a risk that this will become embarrassing. This has always been the case, and this is true of opera tenors who, for example, discover hits from the thirties, as well as of classical pianists who think that they master the language of jazz, apart from someone like Friedrich Gulda. The crux is that classically trained musicians try convulsively to deny their special musical language when it comes to expressing themselves in light music. This is especially embarrassing when opera tenors try to reduce their big, space-filling voice smaller for singing pop songs, for example. What doing so falls along on the wayside is the credibility of the artistic event. Unfortunately, the tenors also will not be successful in singing pop songs in case they use their big voices which are appropriate for opera singing. The Danish string quartet has found a credible approach. These four musicians take hold of their quartet sound, trained for making classical music and cultivated in concert halls, when they devote themselves to jazz or, as in the case of their latest album Last Leaf Folk, to folk songs. Whatever the repertoire of this quartet, as in the case of their new album Scandinavian folk songs, the credibility of their work is always guaranteed. There is nothing superimposed or artificial. At any time, the Danes give the listener the impression of coherence, which is not least attained by the consistently outstanding arrangements of the songs.
Last Leaf is an album that by means of its songs communicates a unique calmness. This calmness is accompanied by a moderate volume level, which makes it less recommendable to enjoy the album during a car trip, unless you drive a Tesla with super quiet electric motor. Then you also hear the delicate sound of the chimes, with which the four musicians of the quartet set a charming touch of color into the sound making process besides their string instruments. The typical string quartet sound is further enhanced by the use of a harmonium and a piano for which the Primarius Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen is responsible into addition to striking of the chimes. His three colleagues Frederik Øland (violin), Asbjørn Nørgaard (viola) and Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin (violoncello) are concentrating on playing their string instruments on the album Last Leaf.
The atmosphere the Danish String Quartet produces for the most part historical folksong-masterpieces is simply stunning. In addition to original naïvely resounding items, there are to admire surprisingly appearing, musically refined sounding items, touching the listener and making him curious about the next song. Regardless of the mostly quietly passing songs, a tension builds up that captures the listener and requires immediate repetition after having played the album.
Last Leaf is the most fascinating and successful attempt to translate Nordic folklore into the sound world of classical music. This album is a real must-have, especially since ECM once again delivers the worthy sound for this extraordinary musical event.
Danish String Quartet