These are string quartets of genuine quality, revealing a distinctive compositional voice, here in very fine performances and transparent recording.
Nancy Dalberg (1881-1949) completed three string quartets, and they hold a place of their own among her compositions. No. 1 in D minor was the very first instrumental work that she presented at a public concert (1915). No. 2 in G minor, op. 14 (1922), was the first work that was published and played outside Denmark, while No. 3, op. 20 (1927), which is dedicated to her teacher, Carl Nielsen, was not published during her lifetime. The present release of the three quartets features two world premiere recordings. Nancy Dalberg is considered one of the first female composers inRead more Denmark, and she was the first woman in Denmark to compose a symphony. This release sheds new light on one of the world’s finest female composers, who due to her lifetime never got the acknowledgement she deserved.
This is a genuinely exciting release, and not only for the devotee of Scandinavian music. These are string quartets of genuine quality, revealing a distinctive compositional voice, here in very fine performances and transparent recording. The music is serious, often very muscular, both strong and rewarding, tonal and assured.
Nancy Dalberg is not well-represented on record, though there is an interesting compilation from 1999 (Da Capo 8224138) which contains orchestral pieces, including Capriccio for orchestra, Scherzo for String Orchestra ,eight selected songs, Fantasy Piece for Violin and Piano, and a performance of String Quartet No. 2 by the esteemed Carl Nielsen Quartet. Interestingly, the second quartet is something of a staple for Nordic and—especially—Danish quartets, yet the other two, no less worthy, are here receiving world premiere recordings. The earlier performance has many delights, is generally swifter than the new, yet the Nordic Quartet lose nothing in urgency while being served by superior sound. The new recording has the extra merit of being heard in the context of the other two, and my preference is for the new one.
Nancy Dalberg’s output was relatively small, consisting largely of songs and these quartets. Her orchestral works, mentioned above, also included a symphony—the first written by a Danish woman. Contemporaries commented that her symphony had nothing specifically feminine about it (why should it?). It would be good to have a modern recording—a cursory search revealed no sign of one.
The First Quartet was performed privately—among the players was Carl Nielsen, her friend and teacher. It follows the usual four movements with a cheery scherzo in second place. A strong sense of rhythm is evident in all three faster movements. The cello-led Adagio is both dark and intense, despite its brevity. Though written when Dalberg was still Nielsen’s pupil, this is no prentice work but a significant contribution to the medium.
The more familiar Second Quartet is very spirited, more instantly attractive, but the slow movement, Andante con moto e cantabile, again in third place, touches many depths in stern elegance.
The final quartet is in only three movements and is musically the most advanced and tightly constructed. There is no slow movement, but an intensity of feeling and some sense of sadness is evident throughout. Instruments often appear in high pitches (most notably the cello) and there is confident handling of the most complex polyphonic forms.
Recording quality is as fine as we might expect from this source, and my recommendation is unreserved.
– MusicWeb International (Michael Wilkinson) Read less