The Danish String Quartet brings its highly acclaimed Prism project to a conclusion with Prism V its fifth and final volume on the ECM label. On it are Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale prelude Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit ‘opens up like a flower’ (as Paul Griffiths writes in the liner notes) with Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F major and Anton Webern’s early String Quartet, composed in 1905 and inspired both by Beethoven and Schoenberg. The programme returns to Bach with Contrapunctus 14 from The Art of the Fugue.
From conception to completion, the Danish String Quartet’s Prism project has been almost eight years in the making. For the players, it has been a process of discovery. Lines of connection are drawn in the five Prism volumes, from a Bach fugue through one of the late Beethoven quartets to the music of a subsequent composer: “A beam of music is split through Beethoven’s prism,” in the Danes’ words.
Throughout the series the DSQ have emphasized that “late Beethoven is not a disconnected island in music,” but rather “a continuation from Bach and the old masters,” which, furthermore, points toward the future. Previous recordings in the series have addressed the influence of late Beethoven on Shostakovich, Schnittke, Bartók and Mendelssohn. On Prism V, recorded in Copenhagen, and produced by Manfred Eicher, Bach and Beethoven are heard alongside Anton Webern, and musical affinities are newly illuminated.
The Danish String Quartet’s three Danish-born members, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, Frederik Øland and Asbjørn Nørgaard first played chamber music together in a music summer camp before they were even teenagers. They made their first recording in 2006 as the Young Danish String Quartet. In 2008, Norwegian cellist Fredrik Schøyen Sjölin joined the quartet, and the group has since gone from strength to strength, with repertoire embracing core classical and contemporary music, as well as folk music.
The DSQ’s Prism series of recordings was initiated in 2016 with the first volume incorporating Bach’s Fugue in E-flat major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 15. The album received a Grammy nomination. Prism II features Bach’s B-flat minor Fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 130/“Große Fuge” Op. 133, and Alfred Schnittke’s String Quartet No. 3. On Prism III the quartet interprets Bach’s C-sharp minor Fugue, Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 and Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1. Prism IV with Bach’s G minor Fugue, Beethoven String Quartet Op. 132 and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 again netted much critical praise.
The CD booklet includes liner notes by Paul Griffiths and a performers’ note from the Danish String Quartet.