UChicago Presents: I hear that three of the four of you met as kids at a summer music camp! What was it like growing as musicians together?
Frederik: It is true that it seems as if we have always played together. I remember sitting in the music library at the summer camp, still sweating from playing soccer on the field, and looking through music that we could play. We went through so many different pieces during that time and it must have sounded horrendous!
One of the pieces that we always wanted to play was the string quartet by Ravel. It opens with the most enthralling melody, but after about half a page, the problems start to emerge. Simply put, it becomes way too hard for 13-year-old soccer players! Quite often, we just played the first half page over and over again—problem solved!
UCP: In an NPR interview released in conjunction with your new CD, Asbjørn said that even classically-trained musicians must be flexible and be able to “perform in a bar and not be awkward.” How do you four reflect that flexibility and approachability in your own musicmaking?
Frederik: First of all, we try to be very open-minded—both in terms of our repertoire, but also where and with whom we play. We have done projects with choirs, actors, symphony orchestras and folk bands; we play everything from Haydn to Thomas Adès and other contemporary composers, folk music and Scandinavian music. We love to be deeply concentrated and focused in a late Beethoven quartet in a big concert hall, but we also like to play a tune if there’s a session at the local pub. We don’t see any conflict in that.
UCP: For our program—which features Schubert’s great C Major Quintet—you’ll be joined by a Swede: Torleif Thedéen, who is Fredrik’s former teacher. Fredrik, what was Torleif like as a teacher? Is this the quartet’s first collaboration with him?
Fredrik: This is indeed the first collaboration with Torleif, and I’m looking so much forward to it. He was my teacher for six years, but it’s almost 10 years ago! So, it feels almost like being reunited with a close friend after many years.
He has a trustworthy and calm energy about him, which is pleasant to be around, and grabs your attention when he´s performing. Usually we´d talk for 10-15 minutes before playing anything in the lessons, and without knowing exactly what it is, I know that I learned much more than just music when I studied with him.