Irvine Arditti Reviews


Photo credit: Astrid Karger
"There was a special focus on composer Philippe Manoury, who turns 70 in June and whose entire mature output of four string quartets was programmed for the occasion. The natural partners for this tribute were biennale veterans the Arditti Quartet, which had premiered three of Manoury’s four quartets between 2010 and 2016. Thus we heard them in Manoury’s first quartet, Stringendo, with its pizzicato ‘imaginary metronomes’, and in his fourth, Fragmenti, comprising eleven miniatures that reel between Ligeti-esque turbulence and long, muted, meditative tones. The third quartet, Melencolia (inspired by Dürer’s engraving), saw the Arditti playing crotales, adding entrancing delicacy following more agitated double-stopped and tremolo outbursts. Bookended by two Manoury works was a short premiere commissioned by the Philharmonie de Paris from 28-year-old composer Clara Olivares: Spatiphyllum’s Supreme Silence, inspired by her imagined observations of the imperceptible sound world of a house plant – a by-product of Covid-19 lockdowns if there ever was one. The musicians’ riveting concentration and precision was, as always, the most exciting thing about the Arditti performances. Over and above the concerts, the highlight of this biennale for me was Irvine Arditti’s masterclass with the Swiss ensemble Trio Ernest. Seated on the stage in front of the score and facing the young musicians, the violinist worked with them almost bar by bar through Wolfgang Rihm’s thorny Fremde Szene III (1984). His warmth and disarming humour belied his unwavering and meticulous devotion to the score – no detail could escape those honed ears. His comments were often more human than technical: ‘Why don’t you do the nasty bar 23? It’s not nasty enough – you’ve got to think of someone you really hate!’ The most technical remarks regarding how to attack a sforzando or the precision of harmonics (‘Can you whistle it or something?’) were always tempered with good-humoured humility: ‘I’m always right… Except when I’m not!’ The session offered invaluable insights into how both young and experienced musicians might approach a contemporary score."
The Strad
April, 2022
"Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, London — exploring extremes of sound The Philharmonia Orchestra’s free-for-all “Music of Today” series, which precedes its evening concerts, usually focuses on a living composer. It is not often that a performer is the subject, but then Irvine Arditti, violinist and inspiration to a generation, is no ordinary performer. To celebrate his birthday he chose two works from Italy. Each explored the extremes of sounds that a violin can produce, which counts as everyday work for him. Sciarrino’s Sei capricci (1976) look back to the classic caprices of Paganini and reimagine them as if echoing from some modernist, alternative universe. For Aureliano Cattaneo’s Violin Concerto (2006/2013), in the first UK performance of its version for small ensemble, he was joined by conductor Roland Kluttig and soloists from the Philharmonia. Delicacy and violent outbursts alternate, as the violin is entwined in a diaphanous blend of accordion, plucked piano strings and high wind. It is hard to imagine the concerto with a full orchestra when the precise sounds in this version seem so integral to it. Who else but Arditti would champion two such testing pieces together?"
The Times
February, 2018
"Caprices: As leader of the string quartet he founded in 1974, and which bears his name, Irvine Arditti has not merely commissioned and premiered countless new works, but given them performances to rival the most stellar of any music, anywhere. A superlative musician, a solo recital from him is a rare gift. The title Caprices belies the serious rapport which Arditti nurtured over decades with Carter, Nunes, Boulez and Sciarrino; all played with white-hot virtuosity and astonishing attention to detail. Arditti is equally at home with the fluttering, unearthly harmonics of Sciarrino’s Sei Capricci as he is with the muscular polyphony of Carter’s 4 Lauds and the blazing comet that is Boulez Anthems I. But it’s Nunes’s Einspielung I which has the subtlest architecture, and an intensity that holds the ear. Steph Power The Times Records of the Year 2017 "
BBC Music Magazine
December, 2017
"Berio Sequenzas Mode Records With Sequenza VIII, there’s another outstanding performance, by Irvine Arditti. Berio referred to it as a homage to a Bach chaconne, and Sanguinetti wrote “for you I have multiplied my voices”. Arditti’s performance is breathtaking, as he navigates the complex patterns with extreme speed and precision. I’ve been listening to this on “repeat”, marvelling at its imaginative vibrancy. It wouldn’t be fair to expect all performances to be in Arditti’s league, but the other pieces on the second disc are also extremely well played. Anne Ozorio"
Music Web International
February, 2006
"Hosokawa Landscape III Arditti// DSO Berlin/Robert HP Platz (Neos 10716) Landscape III is a violin concerto in one movement. Its dedicatee, Irvine Arditti, plays it here with his usual strength and sureness of touch with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin."
Music Criticism
July, 2009
"Thursday night’s concert at the Phillips Collection was, to be sure, a marquee event: a performance by contemporary-music specialist Irvine Arditti of Cage’s complete “Freeman Etudes,” a formidable set of 32 solo violin pieces bristling with four-note chords, quick tonal leaps, and countless variations of pitch and dy­namics that Paul Zukofsky, for and with whom the cycle was originally started in 1977, deemed virtually unplayable. Time was when this kind of thing turned audiences off. But by now, the people who choose to attend are fairly conversant with the language Cage is speaking. They understand the fiendish complexity of the score, and they understand that Arditti is something of a priest of this kind of music — he knew Cage; he got Cage to return to the cycle and complete it — and are happy to give him the reverence due a phenomenal classical artist. Cage himself recognized some of the pieces were impossible to play as written — Arditti responded to this by plunging in breathlessly, like a swimmer going off a diving board, and remaining in a kind of heightened romantic soloist’s state. He played the works straight through with hardly a break, except for one brief moment when he had to leave the stage to replace a broken E string; there are not many virtuoso etudes that allow the performer to play to the end after losing one string, but Arditti was able to draw sounds from three strings that answered the purpose. Anne Midgette"
Washington Post
September, 2012
"Mesmerizing and beguiling, Roger Reynolds’s music receives its due at Miller Theatre. The concert was also a showcase for the calm, implacable virtuosity of Reynolds’ longime friend and collaborator Irvine Arditti. Two of the three pieces on the program had the violinist at the forefront: the opening solo piece Kokoro, from 1993, and the closing work, Aspiration, a chamber-size violin concerto less than ten years old. For the latter, Arditti was backed by Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman. The cadenzas are entirely different: the first is rubato, the violin alternating close runs and wider leaps; the second repeats a firm, clear rhythmic pattern. The third combines the two, and adds lightning quick glissandos and harmonics. The part seems almost preposterously difficult (Reynolds apparently made it harder after Arditti mentioned that it wasn’t too challenging) and Arditti played it with remarkable precision and aplomb. George Grella "
New York Classical Review
February, 2014
"Wigmore Hall, London Sixtieth birthday concert for Irvine Arditti. To say that the world of contemporary music owes Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet an incalculable debt, whilst true, somewhat misses the point; we might be better to say that of the world of music. Ferneyhough’s Intermedio alla ciaccona is a classic by Arditti’s and indeed by anyone’s standards. Twenty-seven years after he gave its 1986 premiere, Arditti ensured that it remained as visceral and as musical an experience as ever. Arditti’s sovereign command as a performer had one believe this to be an experience akin to what I imagine hearing Milstein play Bach might have been. For me, this was perhaps the greatest highlight of a typically exploratory evening. The concert left us in no doubt that both Irvine Arditti and the quartet that bears his name will continue both to exceed and to confound our expectations."
October, 2013
"Irvine Arditti celebrated his 60th birthday at the Wigmore Hall. Contemporary music would be nowhere without Arditti and his Quartet (past and present). For nearly 40 years, he's helped shape new music. He can play at such a technically challenging level that works can be created that might otherwise exist only in a composer's dreams. In turn, he inspires new work written specially for him. Arditti began with Brian Ferneyhough, with whom he has been so closely identified for decades. " What I heard was Arditti playing impossibly long unbroken lines which seemed to glitter with myriad, frantic detail. "Fictional polyphony" adds Ferneyhough, a way of using a solo instrument to suggest "secondary parametric levels of organization"."
Classical Iconoclast
October, 2013
"60th Birthday concert at the Wigmore Hall. Fittingly, there was a big solo to start. Ferneyhough’s scaldingly aggressive Intermedio alla ciaccona has been closely associated with Arditti since its premiere in 1986 and, like other fearsomely difficult Ferneyhough works, is a tour de force. Arditti fought his way through to the close with exultant aplomb and then found well-deserved balm later with Cage’s murmuringly soft Eight Whiskus for solo violin. Richard Fairman"
Financial Times
October, 2013
"Irvine Arditti, long-time leader of the quartet which takes his name celebrated his 60th birthday last week with a flurry of premieres at Wigmore Hall – a reminder both of his advocacy in bringing new works into existence and of his extraordinary virtuosity as a player. Ranging from Brian Ferneyhough – the 1986 work Intermedio alla ciaccona (for solo violin) – to Francisco Guerrero and John Cage, the programme was as gritty and invigorating as a long session with a birch sauna whisk. Arditti, properly, had the spotlight in the Ferneyhough, in which explosions of energy and what the composer calls "close-ups of slowly evolving and monochrome textures" collide in a contrast of frenetic action and stasis. "
The Observer
October, 2013
"It's odd that the idea of virtuosity in music changed, over two centuries, from something rather shallow to become a guarantee of intellectual depth. For whatever reason, though, the difficulties posed by much late 20-century music have become an object of aesthetic fascination in their own right. Few figures are as closely tied to this idea than Irvine Arditti, and this Wigmore Hall concert, celebrating the British violinist's 60th birthday, was a bracing reminder of why he and his quartet remain such a powerful centre of gravity in new music. Arditti began the concert alone, with Ferneyhough's Intermedio alla Cioaccona, a work whose premiere he gave in 1986. He performed it here with a fervour so of a piece with the score that it might have sounded nonchalant were it not for the little weeping figures that seep out of the densely variegated surface and build up an intense emotional charge. A contrasting focus was represented by Cage's violin arrangement of Eight Whiskus, where the difficulty lies in the variety of touch and timbre brought to a simple melodic line. In both works, the spectacle of one of the great animating presences in contemporary music communing with his instrument in all its vitality, fragility and flexibility proved unforgettable. Guy Dammann"
The Guardian
October, 2013
"Arditti played the piece at the Phillips concert as though he owned it, and in some ways he does. Two decades later, the work’s once impossible technical issues are still no problem for Arditti, who has a remarkable mastery of his instrument. He makes high pitched harmonics, which are often challenging for the most skilled players, sound as if they are a mere extension of his instrument’s range. And he is able to make Cage’s awkward jumps in pitch and dynamics sound as fluid as passagework in a Mozart sonata. Sometimes he would attack the etudes, other times he’d lean back just a little, almost an observer to his own astonishing playing. James Chute"
San Diego Union Tribune
September, 2012
"“Señales” (“Signals,” 2012), newly commissioned by the Miller Theater, featured Irvine Arditti, the formidable English violinist who is also Ms. Paredes’s husband. From a lapping, splashing introduction, the music — played by a 10-member ensemble that included an ear-tickling mix of cimbalom, harp and marimba — rippled, surged and jolted ceaselessly around Mr. Arditti’s flashing exertions. Time stood still repeatedly during haunting interludes that paid homage to another composer, Jonathan Harvey. Steve Smith"
New York Times
May, 2012
"The leader of the Arditti Quartet made an extraordinary presentation in our country and it is regarded as one of the illustrious visits of the present concert season in the capital. Arditti was presented in the Aula Magna of the UC Extension Centre with a programme of works for solo violin. All of them within the repertoire in which he is a specialist, contemporary music in its experimental wing and of the highest complexity. The programme began with the joint performance of "Mikka" and "Mikka S" by Iannis Xenakis, the only deceased composer of those featured in the programme. Characterised by the use of glissandi through finger slides, the hypnotic spirit of this music would set the tone for what would be the rest of the evening. It was really entering a state of trance, where not only the music itself played a key role, but the fact of seeing first hand the prodigious technique of Arditti. James Dillon's "Del Cuarto Elemento" followed, where we moved on to an overwhelming ferocity on the part of the performer. The first part closed with a brilliant display of virtuosity in "Intermedio" by Brian Ferneyhough. The cascades of applause fell on Arditti, with an audience fascinated by what had been heard so far. The concert was crowned with Salvatore Sciarrino's demanding 6 Capriccios for violin, by now a true classic of the literature for the instrument of the last decades. It was an intense, enveloping performance where Arditti showed no signs of fatigue after the heavy repertoire he had shown during the evening. In short, it was a pyrotechnic display on the violin as had not been seen for a long time. Without a doubt, Arditti is in his element in these works, and his own commitment and enthusiasm with the chosen works were transmitted to the audience, which generated a noisy ovation. Arditti thanked them by offering the miniatures "Eight Whiskus" by John Cage. A farewell that again showed the enthusiasm of a captive audience, who whistled, shouted, and gave Irvine Arditti a reception that seemed to be taken from a rock concert. Álvaro Gallegos M."
Santiago, Chile
June, 2011
"On his fourth visit to Buenos Aires, the English violinist Irvine Arditti presented, as in 2002, a concert for solo violin at Sala Casacuberta in the San Martin Theatre. Strictly contemporary (the oldest work dates from 1971 and the most recent from two years ago), the programme could not have been more varied and, at the same time, more demanding. Arditti's performance was, once again, masterly. Perhaps there is no other violinist in the world who can face such demands so naturally. Pablo Gianera "
La Nanacion
June, 2011
"Queen’s Hall Edinburgh Festival Berio was represented by his aphoristic and evocative little Duetti pieces, while Arditti took centre stage for an awesomely detailed and riveting performance of the composer's Sequenza VIII for solo violin. Michael Tumelty"
The Herald
August, 2008
"Huddersfield Town Hall. Irvine Arditti with the Nieuw Ensemble conducted by Ed Spanjaard. The stand-out highlight was Brice Pauset’s Vita Nova, fizzing with the volatility of the encounter between Irvine Arditti’s harshly glinting violin part – superbly played – and the teeming responses from the players. Neil Fisher"
The Times
November, 2007
"Nono La Lontananza nostalgica utopia futura Irvine Arditti (violin), André Richard (sound projection) Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Arditti’s violin is clearly venerable, for its tone is lusciously rich and resonant – even with a broken string. It would sound exquisite in any music, yet here he manages to coax beautiful new sounds which its maker might not have imagined. Anne Ozorio"
Seen and Heard
October, 2007
"South Bank Xenakis Festival. The performances were astoundingly good. Some were given by performers who seemed made for the music, like violinist Irvine Arditti, who attacked the violin-and-piano duo Dikhthas with controlled mania."
Daily Telegraph
October, 2005
"Prinzregenten Theater, Munchen, Irvine Arditti, violin Munchener Kammerorchester under Stefan Asbury. Arditti, nicht nur als Primarius seines Quartetts, sondern auch als Solist ein souveräner Meister, ging unbeirrt von der “Störversuchen” der begleitenden Streicher und Farben setzenden Hörner seinen Weg – gespickt mit Doppelgriffen, schnellen Läufen, höchster Lage. Faszinierend wie er in den fast zwanghaften Retetitionen (mit minimalen Veränderungen) die Spannung bis zum Äußersten trieb, bevor das Stück im Geisterhaften ausklang. Arditti, a sovereign master not only as the primarius of his quartet, but also as a soloist, went his way unperturbed by the "interference attempts" of the accompanying strings and colour-setting horns - peppered with double stops, fast runs, the highest register. Fascinating how he drove the tension to the extreme in the almost compulsive repetitions (with minimal changes) before the piece ended in the ghostly. "
Münchner Merkur
June, 2005
"Prinzregenten Theater, Munchen, Irvine Arditti, violin Munchener Kammerorchester under Stefan Asbury Freilich wußte der Solist Irvine Arditti durch seine unprätentiöse Art, mit der er die höchsten Klippen des Ausführbaren überwand, zu bestechen. Of course the soloist Irvine Arditti knew how to captivate (his audience) with his unpretentious way in which he climbed the highest rocks of practicability. "
Süddeutsche Zeitung
June, 2005
"John Adams’ Violinkonzert ist allerdings das, was man im Reich der Sprache einen Zungenbrecher nennen würde: Der Solist spielt quasi um sein leben und kommt in der tönenden Schlangengrube des Soloparts kaum einmal zur Ruhe. Irvine Arditti, namhafter Altmeister des nach ihm benannten Quartetts, machte das Beste draus und überzeugte seine Zuhörer nicht zuletzt mit akrobatischer Geschicklichkeit, aber auch geigerischer Raffinesse. John Adams’ violin concerto is what we would call in the language world a tongue twister: The soloist plays virtually for his life and during the “sounding snake hole” of the solo part he is hardly given any time to breathe. Irvine Arditti, well-known doyen of the quartet which is named after him, made the best of it and convinced his audience last but not least with acrobatic dexterity (agility/skillfulness), but also with violinistic finesse (sophistication). "
Die Rheinpfalz
April, 2005
"Freilich wußte der Solist Irvine Arditti durch seine unprätentiöse Art, mit der er die höchsten Klippen des Ausführbaren überwand, zu bestechen. Of course the soloist Irvine Arditti knew how to captivate (his audience) with his unpretentious way in which he climbed the highest rocks of practicability. Karl Georg Berg"
Badische Neueste Nachrichten
April, 2005
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