Danish String Quartet

Danish String Quartet

Recorded voice: Where to? Carnegie Hall, please. OK, here are your tickets.  Enjoy the show. Your tickets please…

Jeff Spurgeon: Oh, do you hear that symphony orchestra tuning up? Well, that's not what you're going to hear on this particular concert broadcast. For forces this time around are paired down to just five players. The Danish String Quartet and guest cellist Johannes Rostamo performing music of Schubert and Thomas Adès on this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live.

I'm Jeff Spurgeon backstage at Carnegie's Zankel Hall alongside John Schaefer.

John Schaefer: And Zankel Hall is the the mid sized hall here at Carnegie. It has an acoustic that is well suited to a small ensemble like a string quartet. And in the case of the Danish String Quartet, you have one of the most critically acclaimed chamber music ensembles of our time.

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times wrote about the quartet saying, "What they do know is how to be an exceptional quartet whatever repertoire they play." And they play everything from folk music to Franz Schubert to contemporary music and we'll hear at least two of those three on this program.

Now the quartet formed when three of its members were teenagers together at Copenhagen's, Copenhagen's Royal Danish Academy of Music. The two violinists, Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, the violist Asbjørn Norgaard, and then in 2008 those three Danes were joined by the Norwegian cellist Fredrik Sjölin.

And they began recording a couple of years after that and Jeff, I can tell you when that first Danish String Quartet record came out, I just felt like everybody else seemed to feel like, what is this? There was something really special about this band.

Jeff Spurgeon: They were three great friends who were joined by a fourth, and they had wonderful coaching and really found a sense of unity in their playing.

They've been awarded so many honors over the years. Musical America's 2020 Ensemble of the Year here in New York City, appointed to the Bowers Program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. And in 2011, quite a while ago now, they received the highest cultural honor in Denmark, the Carl Nielsen Prize.

They're in Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall tonight to play a string quintet by Franz Schubert, paired with a piece they commissioned as part of their four-year Doppelganger project, a four year international commissioning venture that the quartet spearheaded, premiering works by four composers of our time, each with a particular late chamber work by Franz Schubert.

John Schaefer: The renowned composer Thomas Adès will give us his musical response to Schubert's String Quintet in C major in the second half of this concert, and the string quartet's violist Asbjørn Nørgaard helped to explain what this project is about.

Asbjorn Norgaard: It's a project that's anchored in the late chamber music masterpieces by Schubert, his three last quartets, and his great Quintet in C major. And we've taken these cornerstones of the repertoire and then we've asked living composers to react and reflect on the music by Schubert in new commissions. So we've had so far three of these projects going on, and now we arrived at the, the capstone of the project, the big quintet by Schubert, matched with a new piece by British composer Thomas Adès.

John Schaefer: So you may be wondering, why Schubert?

Asbjorn Norgaard: Schubert wrote a lot of quartets a lot of early pieces, and there are good stuff in there, but, but, but we were sort of looking to really get involved with those masterpieces, Death and the Maiden, the G major quartet, Rosamunde, and the Quintet. We just, we did a lot of Beethoven cycles the last decade. We sort of danced with those big Beethovens for a while. And we were looking for a new sort of mainstream repertoire challenge. And then where you look after Beethoven is often to, to the big Schuberts.

Jeff Spurgeon: Now, of course, the Schubert is a quintet, and so another artist has joined them. He is a Finnish cellist named Johannes Rostamo.

And violist Asbjørn Nørgaard told us why Johannes is the right guy for this job.

Asbjorn Norgaard: Now, Johannes, he's he's a friend from school, actually. He and Fredrik, they started in the same cello class at the Edsberg Castle in Stockholm. It's a part of the Swedish Academy of Music, where almost all of us studied at some point. So we go way back with Johannes. He's a very old chamber music partner of ours. We love his playing. His playing is very similar to ours. We had the same teachers, the same influences, the same chamber music impulses as him. And we also needed one that wasn't just a good cellist, but someone that we would want to rehearse with and tour with. That's also important to us. There are many great cellists in the world, but for this project we knew that we would do at least 10, 15, 20 concerts with this program, so it had to be someone that we connected with great on a personal level as well.

John Schaefer: Once again, the violist Asbjørn Nørgaard talking about the second cellist who will join the Danish String Quartet in both the Schubert Quintet and in Thomas Adès' Wreath for Franz Schubert, the musical response written for the Danish String Quartet.

Jeff, you mentioned earlier at the top of the broadcast that we're not hearing an orchestra. However, this String Quintet by Schubert is massive. I mean, it produces an almost orchestral, symphonic kind of feeling to it.

Jeff Spurgeon: Four movements, and the second movement so famous, so renowned. And now on stage, the Danish String Quartet, and cellist Johannes Rostamo to bring you the Schubert String Quintet in C.

Asbjorn Norgaard: Thank you very much. We are the Danish String Quartet with a Finnish cellist that joined us tonight, and it's very nice to be back here below Carnegie Hall to perform for all you tonight. This is the last installment of our multi year project that we've called Doppelganger, and Doppelganger is essentially a commissioning project.

We've taken the the late chamber music pieces by Schubert, those cornerstones of the repertoire, and then we've asked living composers to react to the music by Schubert in new commissions, new commissions. So far we've been through Danish Bent Sørensen, Icelandic Anna Thorvaldsdottir, and Lotta Wennäkoski from Finland.

And tonight we'll do the East Coast premiere of Thomas Adès' new quintet after the intermission, that is a reaction to the big quintet by Schubert that we're about to do for you now.

I say big about Schubert's quintet because it's a big, big piece of music, and it's big in many ways. First of all, it's really, really long. It might last up to 60 minutes if we take, take our time. But it's also sort of a big piece in classical music lore. I don't know if, if there are someone in the hall that are new to classical music, but if you If you, after the concert, if you go to a cocktail bar with a lot of classical nerds, you should just name drop the Schubert Quintet. It will make you instantly cool. It's one of these pieces that people really respect. You can also say that you heard it at Carnegie Hall with a Danish Quartet. It will make you really cool as well. But it's one of these pieces that is legendary for a good reason, for many good reasons. But I think to sort of to say it shortly, I think it's legendary because it's a piece that is more than just a piece. Schubert almost created a full universe with this piece. We go from the smallest, most introverted, silent moments to the biggest, loudest, most extrovert expressions through this hour of music. It's one long journey and a journey that is always slightly different night after night. So it's very nice to be able to take this journey with good friends in New York City, and with a very good friend on the cello.

Enjoy the show.

Jeff Spurgeon: Violist Asbjørn Nørgaard introducing the Schubert Quintet in C that we're about to hear from the Danish String Quartet and cellist Johannes Rostamo from Carnegie Hall, live.

MUSIC - SCHUBERT String Quintet in C Major, D. 956


John Schaefer: One of the great works in the Western chamber music repertoire, Franz Schubert's String Quintet in C Major. Live performance from Carnegie's Zankel Hall by the four members of the Danish String Quartet, and to make up the quintet, second cellist Johannes Rostamo. From Carnegie's Zankel Hall, I'm John Schaefer alongside Jeff Spurgeon. And Jeff, you know, it's a quintet, yes, but it is symphonic in scope, in ambition, in structure, and yet full of great tunes.

Jeff Spurgeon: That is just what we heard from Asbjørn Nørgaard, the violist who spoke about the work before it was performed. And yes, if you're going to hear Schubert's music, you're going to hear great tunes. He wrote 600 songs alone, and in all of his music, great melodic themes just come up again and again and again.

So the quintet now back on stage. They've stepped off once and have been brought back. Some members of the audience are on their feet already, and this is only the first half of this concert coming to you from Carnegie Hall Live on Classical New York, 105. 9 FM at HD, WQXR, Newark, and 90. 3 FM, WQXW, Ossining.

John Schaefer: It is a sold out Zankel Hall, and the Danish String Quartet and Johannes Rostamo are taking a bit of a break during intermission to get ready for the second half, which features a work written in response to the piece you just heard. We'll get to that in a bit.

Now, as part of this intermission, let's learn a little more about Schubert, and in particular, the last part of his very short life. The quintet we just heard was written in 1828. That was the year that Schubert died at the age of 31. It is probable that he himself never actually heard the quintet that we just enjoyed.

Most scholars these days agree that Schubert died as a result of contracting syphilis sometime in his twenties, but even with his illness, he wrote a lot of great music at the end of his life. The three late piano sonatas, his song cycle known as Schwanengesang, "The Swan Song"; The Shepherd on the Rock, the trio song with clarinet; and of course, this great Quintet in C major that we just heard.

Jeff Spurgeon: A few years ago, here in New York, we got to work with a very distinctive young musician named Emi Ferguson. She's a flutist who was the first flutist in Juilliard's inaugural historical performance program, and the first graduate from Juilliard with undergraduate and graduate degrees with scholastic distinction. She was awarded not only for her studies in flute performance, but also in another area of her interest, epidemiology, the study of the way diseases move through a population.

So Emi brought into creation a podcast looking at syphilis and the lives of composers. Syphilis was a great scourge in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, affecting not only Schubert, but Smetana in America, Scott Joplin, and others. And so here now is an excerpt of that podcast that was produced called This Composer is Sick. This segment featuring an interview with a Schubert biographer named Christopher Gibbs.

Emi Ferguson: Poor Schubert really just couldn't catch a break when it came to his health. In 1824, he writes, "Imagine a man whose health will never be right again, and who in sheer despair over this, ever makes things worse and worse instead of better." And for the remaining years of his life after this letter, his health would go up and down again and again.

But his career? That was actually gaining momentum, at least in part because of the impact of the death of Schubert's hero, Beethoven.

Christopher Gibbs: The death of Beethoven in some ways really opened up a space that quite literally the musicians that had premiered Beethoven's late, last string quartets and other music are performing Schubert's music.

Schubert's reaching out to publishers beyond Vienna, to Beethoven's publishers elsewhere in Germany.

Emi Ferguson: Schubert dies 20 months later, a little more than a year and a half after Beethoven, but not before he composes some of his most famous works, just in that last year and a half. Works like Winterreise and Schwannegesang, the C Major String Quintet.

Christopher Gibbs: On and on and on. It's just one miracle after another. And if we want to put this in the context of a really dying man doing this, it becomes just almost inconceivable.

Emi Ferguson: But did he know he was dying when he was writing all of this? It's not really clear.

Christopher Gibbs: One of the ways we sort of think we know Schubert is of course through his music, because we imagine what type of person would write this type of music. But even that is treacherous because then you take this music that's of extraordinary lyrical beauty and light, joyous music to things that are very dark and looking to the abyss.

Emi Ferguson: And sometimes those shifts happen quite suddenly.

Christopher Gibbs: You're hearing the most beautiful Schubertian lyricism that is sort of interrupted and ruined, one might say, by this explosion of sort of uncontrolled and uncontrollable, maybe we'd say anger or violence or a volcanic eruption.

And then it goes on a dime back to being in paradise in this beautiful lyrical music.

It's hard not to think that that may have some autobiographical component to it.

It's a tricky business with all composers to try to map on necessarily sad music and sad times, happy music and happy times.

Emi Ferguson: Just listen to his very last song Die Taubenpost.

Christopher Gibbs: If somebody is 25 years old, and gets, what he understands, is something of a death sentence. That he knows the course of syphilis, and his doctors know the course of it, and it can be to early death, or to madness, or things that are not pleasant. Then how does that affect what you do?

Emi Ferguson: At the same time, it seems like his death came as a surprise. In the weeks before he died, Schubert is looking towards the future. He's working and writing a lot, and Schubert composes almost to the end of his life. In his last days, he's taking counterpoint lessons with a famous teacher, he's looking at proofs of Winterreise, and he's even writing sketches for a new symphony.

He also took a 40 mile walk to Haydn's grave outside of Vienna, as long walks were also part of the prescribed treatment for syphilis. It was only in the last week or two of his life that his health really took a particular turn for the worse.

Christopher Gibbs: So he was doing these things and socializing and going out to a dinner where he didn't like the fish and that was the last thing he ate before taking to his bed.

Emi Ferguson: That is a sadly ironic last meal for the composer of the Trout.

John Schaefer: Just an excerpt from the podcast series This Composer is Sick done by the flutist Emi Ferguson, produced by Emi and WQXR's Max Fine, and featuring there the Schubert biographer Christopher Gibbs. You can hear that complete podcast about Schubert, as well as the others on the lives of Bedřich Smetana, Scott Joplin, by going to the WQXR website wqxr.org.

It's intermission here at Carnegie Hall Live, this concert featuring the Danish String Quartet and their friend Johannes Rostamo on cello. We're getting near the end of intermission here at Carnegie Hall, at Zankel Hall specifically. The Danish String Quartet and cellist Johannes Rostamo will be back on stage in a few minutes to perform what is essentially a companion piece to the Schubert Quintet that we heard in the first half of the show.

The Quartet, the Danish String Quartet, commissioned this piece as part of a series that they call the Doppelganger Project, in which they asked a series of composers to musically respond to a particular late work by Schubert. And it's an appropriately named project, Doppelganger of course being the name of one of Schubert's 600 plus songs.

And Jeff, the composer in question here is Thomas Adès, English composer who arrived with a bang, you know, as a very young man, and has just gone from strength to strength since then.

Jeff Spurgeon: In lots of different genres, too. The work that he's written for this particular occasion is called Wreath for Franz Schubert, and Adès says about it the these words, he wrote, "The players are loosely coordinated but within specific boundaries, so that within certain limits no two performances are the same, and the duration is flexible, between fifteen and 30 minutes, depending on the players," or, as Adès writes, " maybe the weather." Violist Asbjørn Nørgaard told us that this changing nature of this piece makes it very exciting to play.

Asbjorn Norgaard: And I think it's fascinating in the sense that it means that every performance is actually a world premiere. Even if we did perform this piece before in Copenhagen and other places. It's not the same piece. Every time we perform this piece, it's going to be a new piece. It's going to be somewhat the same path we're traveling, but the exact sounds we're producing, they will never be the same one concert after the other.

John Schaefer: Now a piece like this has challenges, and you know, Thomas Adès says it could be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. So, how does a quintet prepare a work like this.

Asbjorn Norgaard: It's hard to rehearse, just like we, we don't know where to start. If we want to rehearse a section, it's sort of, we can't say, normally we would say, let's start from bar 55. But we can't, because our bar 55, it would be five different places. But I, I think there is an intensity to the performance, because it's extremely hard to actually pull that off. So it has this sort of two layers going on all the time. And, of course, there is a harmonic system, a harmonic structure, that is, that is not loose at all. There's a, it's a piece, it's not just 20 minutes of improvisation.

Jeff Spurgeon: Violist Asbjørn Nørgaard. The Adès piece we're about to hear refers to the Schubert in its use of pizzicato in an unusual way, too. The second cello and first violin don't even bring their bows on stage for this performance.

Asbjorn Norgaard: He said, if you see the Schubert Quintet like it's a painting in an art museum, a big painting and then you go and you just look at one tiny detail in a corner of that painting, like a little detail, a light falling down or something, and then you keep looking at that detail, and then you can stand there for a long time just being sort of obsessed with this little part of that big painting.

John Schaefer: Once again, Asbjørn Nørgaard of the Danish String Quartet talking about Thomas Adès and talking about Thomas Adès talking about his piece that responds to the Schubert Quintet. The piece called Wreath for Franz Schubert is about to get its New York and East Coast premiere here at the stage of Zankel Hall.

And you know, Thomas Adès is probably best known in this country for his operas. Big, splashy works like Exterminating Angel, which was a huge success at the Met a few seasons back.

Jeff Spurgeon: And yet he's also a wonderful pianist and performs in in that regard as well. He does some conducting. He is just an absolutely complete musician and this is really an interesting piece to hear.

How can you create a piece composed in music that can range from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on something or other. I don't even, I don't even think we're sure what. And the players themselves and the Danish String Quartet talk about having to pay close attention to the music in this. And yet there's somehow flexibility built in. So, as you said, John, this is a New York premiere, but as we heard earlier from Nørgaard, in a way, every performance of this piece is a world premiere because it's always different.

John Schaefer: Right. I mean, there have been in since the middle of the 20th century, many pieces that have what's known as open scoring, you know, where performers are given a set of instructions and maybe a set of of notes, you know, patterns to play.

Jeff Spurgeon: To work from, sure.

John Schaefer: This, This is different. There is an actual fixed composition. I guess the best, the best analogy might be a jazz standard.

Jeff Spurgeon: I think that's right. Or the famous mention about Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Where the, the cadenza part wasn't written out, but there was a note in Paul Whiteman's score that says "watch for nod".

John Schaefer: Yes, wait for nod.

Jeff Spurgeon: Wait for nod from the soloist.

John Schaefer: Who was of course Gershwin.

Jeff Spurgeon: Right, but this is this is an interesting thing because it it does have absolute structure. And we are told it requires real concentration on the part of the players. So we don't know what we're going to hear. It's really quite exciting.

We do know that this work is a co commission of Carnegie Hall and is the fourth segment in the Danish String Quartet's doppelganger project. Four late Schubert works, each one paired with a contemporary work by, by a composer of our time. This is the fourth work, as I say, in this series, although the Danish String Quartet is coming back to Carnegie Hall next year to bring the first part of this work. They brought the second, third, and fourth segments of the Doppelganger Project here. The fourth one in this very performance. The first one is, is in part of the 2025 program.

John Schaefer: Well, the, the Danish String Quartet they are a complete ensemble. I mean, terrific musicians, good friends. Also, A kind of winking sense of how people see the Danes. They refer to themselves as relatively bearded and right. We are often compared to the Vikings, however, we are only pillaging the East English coastline occasionally.

Jeff Spurgeon: It's a wonderful light mood from this ensemble. Now back on stage.

Asbjorn Norgaard: Thank you very much,

Frederik Oland: And welcome back.

Before we start this second half of the concert, we would just like to introduce this piece by Thomas Adès, Wreath for Schubert. For those of you who know Thomas Adès, you probably know that it's very often quite complicated music. If any of you have tried to play Thomas Adès' music, then you know it's quite often something that's very difficult to perform.

But that's okay, because it's really, really good music. So when we were waiting this piece in the mail, we were equally excited and a little bit scared because we didn't know what was waiting for us. But what we got was something that we did not expect at all. We had the pleasure of spending two days with Thomas Adès in Copenhagen. And there he told us that this was maybe his most experimental piece. But not in the way you might think. Because this is unusually, at least on the surface, simple music. Thomas Adès grew up listening to Schubert. He listened to the Quintet. He listened to the Octet. And he was, he was obviously very inspired by him writing this piece. We told him to be, so that made sense.

But but, but he zooms in on a single phrase of the second movement of the Schubert Quintet. And he uses the structure of that phrase to write this, this movement, this piece. So that means that it's almost the same rhythmical elements that are present in each bar. What changes all the time is the harmony below. In fact, every single bar in this piece is unique. There's no repeating a single bar, repeating a single phrase harmonically.

The piece itself is also written like a wreath, and I just want to explain that because I find that very, very fascinating. In my part, we have I have my part on top, and then I have Rune's part beneath mine. That means that I, that I'm following or reacting to whatever Rune does. But Rune and Asbjørn, they are reacting to Johannes on the cello.

Johannes is following or reacting to Fredrik, which in turn is following me. So it's like a musical wreath of sorts. I find that very, very fascinating. He himself introduced the piece in Copenhagen as if you're looking at a wreath of flowers. And when you go close, you take one flower out, you look at it, you smell it, you see its shape. You see its colors, and the structure of each, and then you look at another flower, and it, and you smell that one, and the structure of those flowers are more or less the same, but the scents are different, and the colors are different. Here in the end, we're left with a piece that, more than anything, at least to us and to me, feels like a gift from one composer to another. A gift of quiet contemplation, almost a meditative state of thankfulness.

We'll finish off the concert with Die Nebensonnen by Schubert, and by that we just want to say thank you so much for having us, thank you for coming and spending the evening with us. Enjoy.

MUSIC - THOMAS ADÈS Wreath for Franz Schubert

Jeff Spurgeon: You've just heard the New York premiere of Thomas Adès' Wreath for Franz Schubert, a work co commissioned by Carnegie Hall and performed for you on this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live from Zankel Hall by the Danish String Quartet and cellist Johannes Rostamo.

Thomas Adès wrote that work as a reaction, a response, to the great Schubert String Quintet in C. What you heard on the first part of this program, part of the Danish String Quartet's multiyear Doppelganger project, presenting late chamber works by Schubert and contemporary composers writing pieces to react to them.

Now the Danish String Quartet has stepped off stage, but back they come. And backstage at Zankel Hall, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside John Schaefer. What a piece was that! John.

John Schaefer: Really, I would love to get a look at the score to see how it worked. The, the, the pizzicato violinist, Frederik Øland introduced it.

Oh, looks like they're seated again, so we may go straight to the Schubert arrangement of the song from Die Winterreise called Die Nebensonnen, or The Mock Suns.

And we can pick up the thread with the the Adès piece after we hear this live performance from the Danish String Quartet with Johannes Rostamo on second cello.

MUSIC - SCHUBERT "Die Nebensonnen" from Winterreise (arr. Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen)

An arrangement of Die Nebensonnen, The Mock Suns, from Schubert's Winterreise. One of the last songs in that wonderful song cycle by Franz Schubert, arranged here for string quintet by Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, one of the two violinists in the Danish String Quartet.

And so we've had a program of two works by Schubert, one small one, very large, and in between this Thomas Adès piece written as a response to the Schubert Quintet that began this program.

The members of the Danish String Quartet and Johannes Rostamo, the fifth musician, out on stage at Zankel Hall, standing ovation from a sold-out audience here. And some beautiful playing, a lovely kind of autumnal way to end this concert.

Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah, the dark sound from that rather darkly themed Winterreise Song Cycle of Schubert. The arrangement, as you said, made by one of the members of the ensemble here. The, the warmth of that extra cello. [Yeah]. In to add it, to add another cello to a string quartet brings that darker, richer sound, makes those interesting things possible.

And of course it was a fascinating thing in the Adès piece to have one of the violins and one of the cellos without a bow. Pizzicato all the way, and the other, the other three going arco in the program.

John Schaefer: And listening to each other as Frederik Øland, the pizzicato violinist, explained. All listening to each other just as Adès was listening to Schubert..

Asbjorn Norgaard: Thank you so much. So, I don't know if you know this, but we actually owe you a concert, because the first Doppelganger concert was supposed to be performed here a couple of years ago, when the pandemic came and it was cancelled. So we'll actually be back in April and hope to see all of you, to do the first Doppelganger program, which is a piece by Bent Sørensen, the Danish composer Bent Sørensen, paired with Schubert's great G Major Quartet. But for tonight, thank you so much, Johannes. This was our last concert on this tour. It has been such a pleasure playing with you, really. And thank you to all of you for coming here tonight.

And of course Schubert, he was the king of songs. But we do have a composer, or we had a composer in Denmark who also, he was not too shabby either, himself. He was called Carl Nielsen, his name was Carl Nielsen, and he wrote great songs, we're gonna play one of those for you it's called "Underlige aftenlufte".

Thank you so much for being here with us tonight.

MUSIC – NIELSON "Underlige aftenlufte"

John Schaefer: Danish String Quartet performing their own arrangement of a song by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Nielsen probably best known for his symphonies and perhaps his wind ensemble pieces, but that is an arrangement of one of his songs. "Underlige aftenlufte"/Strange Evening Air with their friend and cellist Johannes…

Jeff Spurgeon: Rostamo.

John Schaefer: Rostamo. After an evening of saying the name. I can't believe I forgot that momentarily. Helping out with that performance.

So it has been an evening of string quintet pieces from the Danish String Quartet. Here at a sold out Zankel Hall and just a, again, a kind of lovely way to leave us this evening with that, that song by Carl Nielsen.

Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah, a little blessing to close out the night. And, and, and again, the beauty of the sound of this ensemble, it just does not stop. And such warm music, and yet you hear when they speak, they have a wonderful, casual and enjoyable, pleasant, delightful, light, casual air.

And and so we had a really rich evening with that extraordinary Schubert quintet, and then that most unusual work heard for the first time in New York by Thomas Adès, the Wreath for Franz Schubert a reaction based on just a tiny portion of the second movement of the Schubert quintet as Adès talked about it. If you saw a great big painting and looked at one little detail and focused on it and obsessed on it a little bit, and that was what Adès did with the Schubert in creating his Wreath.

John Schaefer: There are other examples of, of a piece of art coming from a very specific part of an earlier piece of art. The English composer Michael Nyman took two bars from the second movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, and from those two bars spun out an entire soundtrack to the Peter Greenaway movie, Drowning by Numbers. So, you know, that kind of thing where you, you find inspiration in, in a tiny little strand of DNA, and from that create your own [It is a metaphor] organism.

Jeff Spurgeon: It is a metaphor for life itself. So it makes sense, but it was extraordinary to hear this work and to watch the performers as well as they did it. And coming to the microphone now to speak with us for just a little bit is Frederick Øland, one of the violinists in the Danish String Quartet. Congratulations on this performance, a completion of a series of performances, part of your tour. And, and I know John and I both really want to talk to you about the Adès piece, and how it works. Because we, we heard you talk about the way that everybody listens to everybody else and reacts. But a piece can change in length from 15 to 30 minutes. How do you, how do you know where you are and where you're going if it's a wreath?

Frederik Oland: Yeah, it's, it's a very good question. And first of all, I just want to say thank you. Thanks for having me. It's really just a pleasure. It's always a pleasure being back here in Carnegie. And this piece I introduced from stage it's quite an unusual piece for Adès. And like I said, when we first got it, we were almost a little bit confused because we were expecting something completely different.

And he introduces one element. I think that's maybe the most radical thing that he uses. He said this was his most extreme piece. And I think it's because of this one element, freedom, for the musicians. We're not used to that, and we, quite often, we feel quite uncomfortable having freedom, to be honest. We like to play what's in the music.

But he introduces freedom, and and, and he actually writes in the notes that you have to stay more or less within one bar of each other. .

John Schaefer: Ah

Frederik Oland: so this is a piece that will, it will not only change in, in its length. There are these repetition repetitions written in that are, you know, voluntarily voluntary. So you can do it, you can repeat or you can, you cannot repeat. But, but it also, it will also change. It'll, it'll feel like it's the first time every time, because it's, you know, you, you're reacting to something that happens in the music, and then you're gonna play a little bit different than the last time you performed it.

John Schaefer: I noticed there were a couple of times during the performance, Frederik, where you reached over and turned the page of Rune's score.

Frederik Oland: Right.

John Schaefer: So, you're not only following what you're doing, but somehow you have, the mental bandwidth to notice what he's doing to your left as well.

Jeff Spurgeon: Was that because it was, he needed, he needed to be playing while you were turning the page, or was that a cue to him to change the music?

Frederik Oland: No, it's it's because he's playing continuously.

Jeff Spurgeon: Okay.

Frederik Oland: So he cannot change the he cannot turn the pages. But it's actually written in. Adès himself wrote it when I have to turn the page. So it's almost a little bit like playing the piano I feel like. Because I'm reading my own part, I'm reading Rune's part, and then I'm reading the instructions as well.

And Adès is wonderful because he, he, he wanted to try something new with this freedom. But he, but, because normally he writes exactly what he wants and that's how he gets what he wants.

John Schaefer: So when you say freedom, what is the, so Rune also joining us, what is the freedom? Is it freedom to repeat? There's no repetition though, so it's not even like you're free to repeat a bar X number of times. How does that manifest?

Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen: Well, somehow, there is actually written in some repetitions here and there, and we were working quite a lot with him to find that right amount of repetition that was needed for it to sort of fit together.

And some bars you might repeat two notes, sometimes you, you're not repeating it, if we, if I see in the score or in my part, I have Johannes second cello in my, in my part. So if I see that he is ahead of me, I will probably skip a repetition or two. And if, if I'm behind, you know, I would probably repeat those two notes a few times.

So it's like very, you know, liquid in a way the music.

Jeff Spurgeon: And yet you find the cohesion in it because there were gorgeous moments of, of increase in dynamic and, and softer passages. There was a real pulse in it, in the, in the work. But again, I'll just ask, how do you know when to stop? When is it over?

Frederik Oland: Well, so the, so there are some global dynamics that we all follow, and then of course there are the micro dynamics, but there are certain areas or, you know, times in the music where we all have to sort of hit the same fortissimo at some point. . But you know, it's, it's, it's a, it's a very it's a very different feeling playing this music from, from all of the music we've ever tried to play. Because we are, it's so grown into us that we want to be together on a downbeat, you know, it's, it's the way we are schooled.

John Schaefer: Right.

Frederik Oland: And, and suddenly you don't have to and, and that's liberating feeling somehow. Yeah.

Jeff Spurgeon: And scary because freedom is scary. Yeah.

John Schaefer: How about having played the Schubert Quintet and then you take a break and then you come back and you play Tom Adès’ piece. You, you know what it's taken from, you know the, the, the bars that inspired it. Is there anything else as you're playing Adès' piece that makes you think, ah Schubert, or is it just like completely another world?

Frederik Oland: No, it's definitely, you get a lot of Schubert from it. But I think, the clever thing that Adès does, in my interpretation at least, is that he reacts to this piece that is larger than life, Schubert Quintet. It's everything that life contains, right? It's explosive life. And then Adès zooms in and looks at this one little detail. So it's like It's like the detail from a big world, but even within that little detail, there's a huge world existing.

John Schaefer: Like fractals.

Frederik Oland: Yeah, exactly, yeah. And he kind of forces you, and that's what we had to learn, he forces you not to think about the rhythmical structure as much, but much more on the harmony beneath it.

Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen: And that's actually a very good reference to Schubert also, because both of them are, you know, masters of harmony, and that's, it's, that's very evident in this piece, in both pieces, I would say, on tonight's program.

Jeff Spurgeon: Well, we, we thank you both for this amazing, it was an amazing adventure to experience that Adès piece, and of course, a great thrill to hear that Schubert. What a wonderful concert you gave us tonight.

Frederik Oland: Thank you.

Jeff Spurgeon: Congratulations on the success of this performance, and, and we'll, We look forward to your return next year for the first part of Doppelganger...

Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Thanks for having us.

Jeff Spurgeon: ...when the Danish String Quartet comes back once again, violinists Frederik Øland and Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen here with us at the microphones for this broadcast of Carnegie Hall Live, which I think we're ready to conclude now.

John Schaefer: I think we are, and we would like to conclude by thanking Clive Gillinson and the staff at Carnegie Hall, and the WQXR recording engineers, Edward Haber, Duke Marcos, Noriko Okabe, and Irene Trudel. The WQXR production team, Eileen Delahunty, Laura Boyman, Christine Herskovits, and Yueqing Guo. I'm John Schaefer.

Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. Carnegie Hall Live is a co-production of WQXR and Carnegie Hall. Thanks so much for listening.