CD review: Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf

First published in the Guardian on 28 September, 2017

Last Leaf
Danish String Quartet (ECM)

With their first folk album, Wood Works, the Danish String Quartet set themselves apart from most cases of classical-musicians-going-folky. Clearly they weren’t faking their polskas; leader Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen also plays with folk trio Dreamers’ Circus, and cellist Fredrik Schoyen Sjolin contributes several fine self-penned tunes to the quartet’s latest collection of Nordic folk material. Melodically it is a beautiful set, ranging from traditional Faroese ballads to bittersweet self-penned waltzes, and there’s no question the band can play: the sound is lissom, polished, flawless. But all the glossiness doesn’t sit quite right. The arrangements go in for rousing harmonies, silky textures, big builds — which sanitises the character of the tunes, straightens out the beautiful kinks. They hurtle through reels, playing fast because they can. I’d take slower with more swing any day,