Nielsen: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: String Quartet No. 1; String Quartet No. 2
PERFORMER: Oslo String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553908
When these Oslo players gave us the Third and Fourth Quartets last year, I thought them the best at any price. Mind you, competition is limited to the Kontra (BIS), Danish (Kontrapunkt) and Zapolski Quartets (Chandos). It has always puzzled me that no major international quartet has taken them up. Although the first two quartets are not quite the equal of their later companions in E flat and F, their freshness of invention and warmth are nonetheless inspiriting. Both date from the 1890s, though the Second in G minor was actually composed earlier, in the same year as the Little Suite for Strings, Op. 1. As Robert Simpson notes, the influences of Svendsen and Brahms are strong, and the Quartet is more ambitious though less perfect than the Suite. The 1890 F minor Quartet is undoubtedly the finer, and Nielsen obviously thought so, too, since he delayed the publication of its predecessor until its revision in 1897-8. These young Norwegian players communicate their enthusiasm for this music, and play with an ardour that is quite captivating. Not only are they the best irrespective of price: they are superior to any predecessor – even to the eminently satisfying and long-deleted Copenhagen Quartet recording from the Sixties. Robert Layton