Last Leaf—Danish String Quartet (ECM 2550)
One of our favorite releases from 2017: The Danish String Quartet opened the current season of the Cleveland Chamber Music Society in October, and the musicians played some pieces from this new CD. It’s a collection of traditional music from Sweden, Denmark, and the Faroe and Shetland Islands, including funeral hymns, medieval ballads, boat songs and dances, all arranged by the Quartet, sometimes individually, sometimes as a group. The initial spark of inspiration came from the final tune on the CD, Now Found is the Fairest of Roses, published in 1732 by Danish theologian and poet H. A. Brorson. Composed as a Christmas piece, but describing a rose growing in a world of thorns and thistles and employing a dark mysterious melody accompanied by an old Lutheran funeral hymn, it elegantly expresses the eternal connection of life and death. The arrangements in this program include parts for piano, glockenspiel, double bass and a harmonium from an old museum in Denmark. These pieces reside comfortably in the space between “Folk” and Classical”.