The University of Chicago Present series continued Friday evening with the Danish String Quartet returning with an introspective program consisting of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 15 and Schubert’s C-Major Quintet.
Completed less than one year before the composer’s death, Shostakovich’s final quartet comprises six introspective movements (all marked Adagio). Their titles—Elegy, Serenade, Intermezzo, Nocturne, Funeral March, and Epilogue—are more comparable to a requiem than a work scored for four string instruments.
The first movement begins with an unhurried and dark fugue, whose wandering subject was set off exquisitely by second violinist Frederik Øland. Seated semicircle, the Danes relied less on visual cues and more on letting their ears do the work as they probed the dense contrapuntal depths of the movement.
The group advanced attacca into the Serenade, which was one of the evening’s memorable moments. Unlike many works with the similar style, this Seranade takes a vehement character; a sustained pitch rapidly shifts from ppp to sffff. The notes sliced through silence as they were passed among members of the group breaking the static appeal of the Elegy.