The Coolidge Quartet

Aalborg Stifstidende
6 October 1997

11 October 1997

13 October 1997

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Quartet Sound of Quality
Translated from the Danish newspaper Aalborg Stifstidende / 6 October 1997

Four impressive young Musicians

NUT-concert: N.C. Rasmussen, Steinke, A. Koppel, Britten.
The Coolidge String Quartet, Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum (Art Museum of Northern Jutland), Aalborg.

The Coolidge String Quartet, in residence at Connecticut, USA, consist of four young musicians, Hasse Borup, violin, and the Americans Se-Yun Lee, violin, Stephen King, viola, and Amy Leung, cello.

The quartet, which has existed for only a little over a year, has chosen to specialize in music of our own century. Thus Benjamin Britten’s first quartet from 1941 was the oldest work of the NUT-concert, Saturday, at Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum; the other three works were all composed in the nineties.

The concert offered no less than two Danish first performances, works composed especially for The Coolidge Quartet. Niels Christian Rasmussen’s "Three pieces for string quartet" is composed in a modern expressionistic tone, where musical passages change between the organic and the destructive, where new and exciting combinations of sound rise all the time with the frequent use of glissandi.

In the next work by the American composer Greg Steinke "Native American Notes", "The bitter roots of Peace" from 1990 each movement was composed on a series of poems recited by Gitte Grarup Soerensen between the movements. Steinke’s composition may almost be characterized as a musical mosaic with the use of pulsating rhythms, sonorous improvisations, Indian songs, dance-rhythms, imitations of Nature’s sounds, and as an even more special effect towards the end, a ghostlike inserted Bach-choral. For the writer of this review the recited poems worked as a fine guidance into all the special moods and contents, and the whole performance had Ejler Bille’s paintings as a perfect background.

Anders Koppel’s string quartet no. 1 in one movement, which had its first performance here, was an exciting acquaintance. The movement was amazing in its homogeneity, from the fiery dance rhythms of the opening in changing, odd times through the slow, beautiful melody lines of the central piece and to the almost baroque fugue-part as an impressive final.

If one did not know Benjamin Britten’s first string quartet in advance, which ended this successful concert, one would not hesitate to expect that we now would return to something more well-known and traditional. But already in 1941 Britten had a tone, which he in many ways share with the three other contemporary composers of this concert, and to this is added a sense of form, technique of composition, clear and logical and founded on tradition.

The quartet released in the most beautiful way the luminous, melodic progress of the work with the pizzicati of the cello in the opening, the long, melodic lines unto frozen, harmonic sounds of the third movement and the jubilant playing ping-pong with motives in the fast final movement.

In spite of the young age of the musicians (and of the quartet) their performance yesterday was characterized by a splendid, mutual chamber musical understanding. The quartet has worked determinedly and intensively to find the homogeneous quartet sound which at the same time does not exclude the voice of the individual musician. The four musicians have already reached impressively far in the difficult and time demanding process, and it shall be exciting to hear more from them in the years to come.

Read about the members of the quartet

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