It is striking that the two Nordic string quartets that have received the greatest international attention and have the firmest foothold in the repertoire come from composers whose reputations rests on their achievements in other genres than chamber music. In the case of Edvard Grieg, a string quartet was in fact among the very first works that he presented after having finished his studies in 1861, but the Quartet in G minor, Op.27, was the only such work to be published in his lifetime. In 1878, while composing it, Grieg wrote that ‘it aims at breadth, to soar, and, above all, at vigorous sound’, and the amplitude of the sound is indeed striking: the generous use of double-stops creates an almost orchestral effect, unusual for the genre. This caused some reviewers to criticize the quartet as being unidiomatic, while others, including Liszt, greeted it with enthusiasm. Some thirty years later, when Jean Sibelius composed his D minor quartet Op.56, he too had previous experience of writing for the medium, but Op.56 is the only quartet among his mature works. He embarked on it at a critical point in his career, following the completion of the Third Symphony and during a stage of increased introspection and greater thematic concentration. The often used 'nickname' Voces intimae is often taken to refer to the intimate interchange between the four voices in a quartet, but is probably a more specific allusion to a brief passage in the third movement: Sibelius wrote the remark into a score some time after the work had been published. Formed in 2006, the Engegård Quartet has become one of the most sought-after ensembles in Norway and has also received international recognition. On its first release on BIS the quartet also includes Felix Remix by Olav Anton Thommessen. The work, which was premièred by the Engegård Quartet in 2014, is based on the second movement, Allegro di molto, of Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet, Op. 44 No.2.
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