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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

From Scandinavia, Danish String Quartet Brings Darkness & Light

Caroline Bitten
The Danish String Quartet

The San Antonio Chamber Music Society opens their 74th season on Sunday, October 22 with the Danish String Quartet, returning to Texas, but visiting San Antonio for the very first time with a program that balances darkness and light.

The first half of the program is dominated by Dmitri Shostakovich’s haunting Quartet No. 15, written in 1974; the composer would die less than a year later. Its six movements are played without interruption, and as violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen explains, it’s a difficult but rewarding piece to perform, as the individual lines of the four performers rarely come together.

“It feels very different to play this music from Beethoven or any other composer,” Sørensen explains. “I think you just need to be in a different state of mind when playing it. If you can achieve that on stage, than I think the impact that it makes when you listen to it—it’s incredible.”

“It’s heavy, it’s dark,” he continues, but referencing the Serenade movement, “there’s a little glimpse of light. The light becomes so much stronger when you have such darkness around it.”

During the second half of the concert, the Danish String Quartet will draw on music from their album “Wood Works,” featuring the group’s own arrangements of traditional folk melodies from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. “Many of these tunes are very simple,” Sørensen says. “But it’s like a haiku poem. You can say many things with few words.”

Sørensen says the arrangements of the songs fall somewhere between the sound of folk and a classical string quartet. You can see and hear for yourself in the video below, produced by NPR.

Rounding out the program is RolfWallin’s “Swans Kissing,” co-commissioned by the Danish String Quartet and the BBC. Sørensen says the composer uses some interesting effects in the first half of the piece, while the second part is “rhythmically tight.” The piece made its U.S. premiere earlier this month in California, so when San Antonio hears it, the ink will still be wet on the page, so to speak!

“It’s important that we keep commissioning new pieces,” Sørensen says, noting that they were proud to support Wallin, a fellow Scandinavian.

Following the Danish String Quartet’s performance, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society has one of their most diverse lineups in recent memory on tap for the 2015-16 season. On November 20, they welcome the Brasil Guitar Duo. A second string quartet program happens on January 22 when the Aeolus Quartet visits. On February 26, Les Amies Trio performs, and on April 23, 2017, SACMS closes out their season with a vocal ensemble, Calmus. All concerts are held at 3:15 p.m. on Sundays at Temple Beth-El, and details are online at SACMS.org.