Good morning from Copenhagen! It's day 2 of the competition but the first day for our string quartets, who in this first round, must play Haydn and Nielsen. We'll be off in around 10 minutes with the Elmire Quartet from Paris. Stay tuned...
We're off! The Elmire Quartet from Paris have got things going for us with Haydn's string quartet Op 76 No 5 - possibly the favourite quartet from Haydn's greatest collection. It's a test of ensemble in the outer movements and, in the slow 'graveyard' Largo that comes in between, a test of feeling.
The last Nielsen string quartet competition - in 2016 - was won by an all-male quartet from Paris. Just saying!
On home turf. The Novo Quartet was trained here in Copenhagen, at the Royal Danish Academy of Music by Tim Frederiksen - the man who put together the Danish String Quartet, Nightingale String Quartet and Nordic String Quartet. He is known for weaning new quartets on Haydn - a sure advantage for the Novo Quartet here.
Brave decision from the Simply Quartet from Vienna to tackle Nielsen's last string quartet, the F minor quartet Op 44. It's an altogether more slippery customer than its predecessors, contemporary with Nielsen's opera Maskarade. This Austrian quartet have evidently worked hard to try to access the heart of it. Sometimes a bold move like this can pay off...especially when almost all their competitors are opting for Nielsen's far more Brahms-like Op 13.
...having said that, stand-by for Nielsen's Op 5 string quartet this afternoon (a later work than the Op 13, despite the opus number), which the Gyldefeldt Quartet from Leipzig will play after 15.00.
We are taking a short pause for lunch here in Copenhagen. We'll be back with you at 12.35 CET when the string quartet competition resumes with the Kleio Quartet from London. See you then!
We are all filled with lunch, the audience is arriving...and we're raring to go for the next session which starts with the Kleio Quartet from London.
...they bring us Nielsen's Op 13 quartet and Haydn's Op 76 No 1.
They may be based in London, but the Kleio Quartet reflect the city's tapestry of nationalities - they are from Japan, Italy, Korea and Taiwan, and met at Seiji Ozawa's Chamber Music Academy...in Switzerland!
Haydn's set of six Op 76 quartets had huge significance for the future of the string quartet. Even in the first quartet in the set, we can hear the composer pushing at the boundaries of what would have been expected in the eighteenth century. He truly was a composer who was always exploring...you sense this ensemble from London understands that.
Houston both nominally and geographically: the Balourdet String Quartet met at Rice University in Houston and its cellist goes by the name of Russell Houston.
...Houston, we DON'T have a problem. This is infectiously enjoyable Haydn playing from the Balourdet Quartet.
That slow movement of the fifth Haydn quartet in the set is very special - one of the most profound slow movements in the classical quartet literature. The Balourdet Quartet managed to get in the zone there and draw the audience in. You could hear a pin drop! That will not have gone unnoticed by the jury - or by the very dedicated audience here.
Switcheroo! The two violinists of the Balourdet Quartet have changed position for the Nielsen. I think that's the first rotation of the 'leader' position we have seen so far in the competition. It's not an uncommon practice - the violinists of the Nightingale String Quartet here in Denmark often rotate. It can freshen-up the musical conversation and mean a player with particular strengths gets to lead music he or she feels more strongly about.
We are taking a very short break but will be back with the final two string quartet contestants at 14.20 CET.
Welcome back! Any moment now we will welcome the Selini Quartet from Vienna, the sixth competitors in the string quartet competition.
We have had our first taste of Haydn's 'last' quartet set, Op 77, courtesy of the Selini Quartet who played Op 77 No 2. Coming next will be the other work in the set, Op 77 No 1, from the Gyldfeldt Quartet of Leipzig.
Standing up for Haydn! It looks like the Gyldfeldt Quartet from Leipzig will be the first - and potentially only - quartet in the competition to play standing up.
Our first taste of Carl Nielsen's F minor quartet, from the Gyldfeldt Quartet of Leipzig. "Nielsen is clearly a considerable talent; none of his works has shown him as assured as this quartet," read the review in Politiken after the quartet was premiered in 1892.
That's it for today! Keep an eye on the Competition's facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carlnielsenchambermusic/ for news on which string quartets will make it through to the next round. From tomorrow we move to the Royal Library on Copenhagen's harbourside for Round 2 - starting with winds at 12:00 midday CET. Do join us then - the competition is hotting up!