"Gran Cadenza: Irvine Arditti’s 70th Birthday and Jake Arditti sings Hilda Paredes’ Canciones Lunáticas
6 days ago Marc Bridle
Although over its many years the faces of the Arditti Quartet have changed, its one constant has been Irvine Arditti himself. Now 70-years old, this birthday lunchtime recital, called Gran Cadenza, showcased this remarkable musician – perhaps the single most important interpreter of contemporary classical music over the last half-century.
The format of this ninety-minute concert was inspired – it began with a solo piece for violin and then we went on a journey through works for duo, trio, quartet and finally a song quintet for countertenor, composed for Arditti’s son, Jake. It’s a mark, not only of the superb quality of the music-making, but also of some of the sheer brilliance of some of the work’s chosen, that this concert, played without an interval, simply flew by.
Any number of moments could stand out as being a highlight – the fabulous violin duo playing in the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Gran Cadenza (2018), a work of titanic virtuosity, being one. It’s a piece that’s simultaneously kinetic and violent, but then almost comes to a complete standstill. Sudden fragments explode as each player comes to blows; it’s the equivalent of melody and disjointed sonics literally carpet-bombing their way through the work. In asymmetry to the brutal opening, the work just abruptly comes to a sudden buffer. Ashot Sarkissjan, the Arditti’s other violinist, was a magnificent protagonist in this piece; simply hypnotic to watch, as you find all of these players in this quartet are.
The earliest work – by some distance – on the program was Iannis Xenakis’s Ikhoor (1978), his only string trio. Another, breath-taking highlight. It’s a masterpiece, and this was the finest performance of the piece I have heard outside Germany. Literally meaning ‘blood of the gods’ in Greek, this was a diaphanous and transparent liquid that flowed through the veins of the gods – but was mortal for humans. It was also a symbol of power, fire and vitality. Xenakis treats the music in this work as if each note is streaming through the veins of the trio (as a composition), and by extension the players – each note is an individual pulse, although Xenakis does not compose around any single one. The gestures are entirely powerful; the rawness of the work is heard only through its conflicts.
You couldn’t have asked for a more trenchant opening on the strings here – bows powerfully imposed on the strings, each instrument’s bridge almost feeling as if it would collapse under the weight. Glissandi are extreme in this trio – slow in the low register, but coming like a torrent of rapid glissandi in the upper scales, such as in the work’s third section. The music can sometimes move into darkness – rather as if it’s leveraging itself out of daylight – as it fades into masses of sound. Repetitions seem like memories. But it’s part of Ikhoor’s asymmetry as the work’s coda-recapitulation reverses from its opening brutality to a closing stillness as the pulse dies out and finally stops altogether. The performance lasted perhaps just over ten-minutes but there was something very unusual about how it came across to its audience. It felt as if time had been suspended, as if we were locked into some vacuum where only the music mattered and that could really be for however long we wanted it to be. The individual contributions of Arditti, Lucas Fels (on cello) and Ralf Ehlers on viola were just fabulous – technically flawless, musically exceptional. Performances like this are extraordinarily rare; it’s not one I shall forget.
Hilda Paredes’s song quintet, Canciones Lunáticas, in three movements, was composed in 2008/9 for her stepson, Jake Arditti, although the work did not receive a full three-movement premiere until 2011. These are songs based on a set of texts by her fellow Mexican, the poet Pedro Serrano. The poems are closely related in their imagery to the moon, the night and darkness but these form two distinct parts: the physical (of the landscape itself), and the metaphysical (of the human soul).
The first song (only named I) sets up the imagery for the rest of the cycle. Principally, the moon becomes the only witness to a despairing loneliness on a dark and lonely night. It is explicitly a landscape piece; it is a description that is cold and remote, of ‘slaughterhouse heavens’, ‘squalls of gales’, and landscapes that are laid to waste are ‘torn into tatters’. The moon itself is like ‘an unwonted Cinderella’, and goes ‘wandering, in rut, and adrift. At her mercy the waters and life’. The second song (II) deals with lunacy, so often a common thread in music over hundreds of years. But here, Paredes is playing with sound imagery as she uses the text to set up the idea of madness: the moonstruck must be locked up, the padlocks binding them should be heavy, and their eyes must be gouged out and tongue torn out so they do not wander off into a milky way that would give them enlightenment.
It’s the sound of the quartet here which gives substance to the madness in the text – extended instrumental techniques in the strings that add to the idea of fear and a kind of psychosis in noise. But the madness is entirely within the text and it’s through the voice that this has to emerge and where it did through Jake Arditti’s penetrating, deeply disturbing singing.
I’m not sure how often he has sung this work, but there was an uncomfortable resonance to the portrait of lunacy which emerged. Some singers simply skim the surface of the text; with Jake Arditti he really sunk quite convincingly into the recesses of darkness here; all hope was stripped back. This was very raw singing, a chasm between the beauty of the voice and the despair of the conviction with which it was all sung. Sometimes things are simply as they are, or as it is – the performance just couldn’t be done in a different way. This was one of those moments.
The drama of Arditti’s singing was really quite remarkable, both within the context of the music and as art itself. The language, Spanish, proved more than capable of conveying a phonetic picture of madness, but in poems where the theme of madness and lunacy is so clear vocal gestures like whispering sounded all the more suggestive of paranoia. Individual touches, like verbal tics, lip-smacks, the sudden leap in register, glissandos that swerved and bent like the wind were magnificently projected and stood out, especially when this was a voice also capable of holding a note with effortless purity, allied with a majestic power and vocal colour that is richer than many countertenors. In the last song (III), there is a sense that the singer has begun to control his madness – ‘the moon has broken free’. Arditti was as rhythmically buoyant, as free from the bondage of restraint, as he mirrored the dance of the quartet’s playing. No longer a danse macabre, there was some hope as Arditti climbed out of that reservoir of moonstruck despair. Again, it felt like one of those “as it is” moments.
I had warmed marginally less to the two other works on the program – Roger Reynolds’ imAge for solo violin, played beautifully but otherwise not technically imaginative enough for me. Sven-Ingo Koch’s String Quartet No.3 (2020), the most recent work, and also receiving a UK premiere, suffered by following the Xenakis piece. Koch’s quartet is from a different world – and actually a different century. Gustav Mahler floated in and out (the unfinished Tenth), which kind of sunk any innovation in this quartet.
This had been a really wonderful recital, however. Jake Arditti’s singing of Canciones Lunáticas and the playing in the Xenakis Trio will probably be two individual performances I will not find bettered this year. Just outstanding.
Arditti Quartet: Irvine Arditti (violin), Ashot Sarkissjan (violin), Ralf Ehler (viola), Lucas Fels (cello); Jake Arditti (countertenor)
Roger Reynolds – imAge for solo violin (2015); Unsuk Chin – Gran Cadenza (2018); Iannis Xennakis – Ikhoor (1978); Sven-Ingo Koch – String Quartet No. 3 (2020); Hilda Paredes – Canciones Lunáticas (2008/9)
Wigmore Hall, London; Friday 3rd February 2023.
"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."
"Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s four string quartets span his whole creative period and show the development of his personal style. With never ending high intensity, curiosity and quality, the Arditti String Quartet is once again presenting awesome performances.
The Arditti Quartet continues to play its role as the bearer of new quartet music with a flawless technique and a stupendous understanding of all new developments and an irrepressible never-ending curiosity.
"Yet there’s the clear sense that all this complexity is there to serve the greater purpose of communicating a transcendental message, one inspired by Harvey’s immersion in religious mysticism and Buddhist beliefs. This message is clearly delivered in the exceptional performances from the Arditti Quartet on this spellbinding double-disc set of Harvey’s four string quartets and string trio.
But it’s in the Fourth Quartet (2003), which also uses live electronics, that the spiritual message is clearest. The work plots a journey through conflict and instability to a radiant concluding evocation of the ‘paradise garden’ where the soul is at rest, evoked in music of startling beauty and intensity that is given a luminous performance by the Arditti.
The quartet players are on superb form throughout, and although they tackle the music’s fearsome technical demands without seeming to raise an eyebrow, what’s really impressive is their engagement with the questing spirit of the music, and their communication of its mystical message. Irvine Arditti in particular often astonishes with his clarity and precision in the demanding first violin lines.
""NMC has become a reliable champion of James Dillon's remarkable music, and its third collection devoted to him is not only the most impressive so far, but also marks the belated debut of the Arditti Quartet on the label... Dillon's instrumental writing takes no prisoners, but the playing of Kawai and the Ardittis in all these works is remarkable too; no composer could hope for better."
"Berio String quartets Naive-Montaigne
The Arditti Quartet plays all of them as superbly as you would expect and show that even four such disconnected pieces do provide a map of sorts to the way in which Berio's musical preoccupations have shifted and mutated for the best part of half a century.
"Neo-masterly string quartets at the Musikprotokoll in the Graz List-Halle.
One can also place oneself in a completely different line of tradition as Clemens Gadenstätter demonstrated with his string quartets 'Paramyth 1 to 3', first performed by the Arditti Quartet as a triptych. Gadenstätter provokes an associative space with the movement titles 'guard', 'protect' and 'tear'.
The titles also refers to the way the instruments are played, which in turn serves as a starting point for new thoughts on the form of the string quartet. The bottom line: almost unbearably intense, fulminant music, in its density tying in with masters of the 20th century and yet contemporary, in a gripping rendition by the Ardittis.
Kleine Zeitung, Graz
"In Bern, the first Swiss Contemporary Music Festival during the pandemic...
The Ensemble "in residence", the timeless Arditti Quartet of London has been invited to perform the great and historic quartets of Xenakis, Ferneyhough and Clarke, which the instrumentalists, with their impeccable virtuosity, have interpreted at a level we think unsurpassable.
"Maïda, Mason, Jolas: the wind of freshness of the Arditti Quartet on the Biennale.
Two world creations, one French creation: the Arditti Quartet continues its role of explorer of modern times.
Betsy Jolas! Her Topeng quartet evokes the Balinese musical theater of the same name.
The Arditti Quartet's sense of dialogue is enough to make the writing expressive and gives the whole a relative coherence.
The inventiveness of the Arditti Quartet has had the merit of making us discover unexplored territories without detour.
Bachtrack, Le Cité, Paris
"Ah, the return of the Arditti Quartet! With this, the CNDM provides some of the best news of this year.
The two quartets of Jesús Rueda brought to us by Arditti are not new. They are full works, authentic artistic pieces of density and superior content.
In short, two beautiful, inciting works, that renounce the rotundity and deploy above all insinuations, the wealth that can contribute what is not projected as peremptory.
It was a great evening for the Ardittis, something that amazed us all, even though we were expecting it: the Arditti's mastery of the ranges, the nuances, those same suggestions; their way of avoiding unexpected fortes (one of the topics of the avant-garde and a good part of the music of the century), their sense of silence and, when it comes down to it (with this repertoire is not often mentioned), the phrases which needs amplitude and respite. The great art of the Arditti was always at the service of the music of their time, and many composers and many works owe their notoriety to the group almost as much as to the value of their own creations. In short, the return of this formation was another triumph for the group led by Irvine Arditti and the CDNM. It is not usual for the auditorium 400 of the Reina Sofía to see such a full hall, but it was.
Santiago Martín Bermúdez"
"They inaugurated the Auditorium 400 of the Reina Sofía Art Center in Madrid and now they return, five years after their last appearance there.
Too long. It will be said that they are no longer alone, they are not the only quartets who specialise in this music. Of course they are not. There are other similar formations such as the Jack, the Tana, the Bozzini and the Diotima, all of whom are of the first level, each one with its particularities, all with a strong commitment to the music of today. But the Arditti Quartet is historical and, best of all, they are still "the ones that rule".
We left the concert with the satisfaction of having been wrapped up once again in their presence, applauded them, in a room flamed full of enthusiasm.
The concert ended with the Second (1968) of György Ligeti (1923-2006). And, of course, here the teaching was absolute. Far from diminishing stings, it was an uncomfortable and naked version, very much in the Arditti aesthetic, the same that magnetised Ligeti, and Lachenmann, and Berio, and Cage, and ... The group seemed to like itself in every movement, with an overwhelming connection, with a capacity like no one to generate tension and beauty in equal parts. The liturgy of contemporary music rests on the lectern of Arditti and his family.
Ismael G. Cabral "
El Compositor Habla
"The tireless Arditti Quartet after 44 years still unrivalled in new repertoire, gave masterly performances to all."
"Wigmore Hall, London
Salvatore Sciarrino’s Sei quartetti brevi is a series of seven miniature movements, each exploring a different texture or sonority. The work was written in stages between 1967 and 1992, and has since become a classic in the field, and with good reason. Extended techniques are the rule rather than the exception: we hear slow slides across the fingerboards, bows gently coaxing sounds from the instruments, inscrutable woody sonorities, but all done with the Ardittis’ typical elegance and sophistication.
The Arts Desk
"Subtle and sensitive as ever, Arditti Quartet’s refinement stunned, once again providing proof that classical structure devoid of any cross contamination from popular genre continues to be relevant in new music.
The Boston Music Intelligencer
"Arditti and colleagues Ashot Sarkissjan (second violin), Ralf Ehlers (viola) and Lucas Fels (cello) brought to the Second and “Metamorphoses Nocturnes” the kind of needle-sharp coordination and X-ray-like clarity of detail that has made them the standard bearer among string quartets specializing in music of the 20th century and beyond.
There is an element of gestural theater to both works that the Arditti projected with fierce conviction, as befits a group for which the Ligeti quartets are as basic repertory as Beethoven’s are to more mainstream ensembles.
Ligeti’s Second Quartet floats between violent lunges and passages of quiet but ominous tremolos, flurries of plucked strings moving out of sync and clouds of intervallic fog that foreshadow later Ligeti experiments with what he called micropolyphony. Attentive to the score’s detailed expressive markings, the Arditti gave this music a firm sense of coherent argument, of individual and group virtuosity singlemindedly applied to illuminating Ligeti’s sometimes-creepy exuberance.
A reading poised on the knife-edge of virtuosity was perhaps most notable for the extreme care with which the four players made even the barest wisps of sound audible."
"At the world premiere of Younghi Pagh-Paan‘s Horizont auf hoher See --- All four instruments clambered ever higher, the first violin in particular frequently dancing like a circus trapeze act. Irvine Arditti took great delight in a part that kept his hands busy, and inspired his three colleagues in turn, who gave the work absolute technical mastery and unconditional commitment."
"At the world premiere of Younghi Pagh-Paan‘s Horizont auf hoher See --- An evening with the Arditti Quartet puts your inner compass in a powerful spin. Expect the unexpected with a quartet that so often strays far from the beaten track. (…) Such an evening floods the senses with clear, cold water direct from the source. One wonders constantly: what happened there, how did they do that? How do you notate these wild, strange sounds and rhythms? How do you translate such notation into sound the way it was intended? There could have been no more radical or appropriate an ensemble to be the first quartet to play in the Kleiner Saal of the Elbphilharmonie(…). (…) This rollercoaster through the unknown was like a drug delivered straight into the blood stream.
"At the world premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas’ String Quartet No. 10 at the Huddersfield Festival--- …one came away convinced that the Arditti Quartet had taken on the darkness and, against all odds, had won.
"In their concert during the Hampstead Arts Festival on 15/11/2016 --- A programme of string quartets by Thomas Adès, Brian Ferneyhough and Harrison Birtwistle is a tough nut to crack – for players and audience alike. But the Arditti Quartet are past masters in this repertoire and they delivered accomplished, cogent accounts of all three scores for a sizeable and appreciative [Hampstead Arts Festival] audience.
"In their concert at Aldeburgh Music on 25/06/2016 --- The Arditti’s realisation of the wit and often extraordinary soundworld of Mason’s Second Quartet was a different kind of aural escape.
"Few — if any — string quartets have had as much impact on contemporary music as the Arditti Quartet. Through virtuosic performances of works that leave other ensembles scratching their heads, the Arditti has introduced — maybe “revealed” is a better word — some of the most important new music of the past four decades. So it was a particular treat to hear the Arditti at the Phillips Collection on Sunday, where the group explored the subtle connections between three modern French masterpieces, and suggested that “impressionism” in music may still be very much alive.... Henri Dutilleux’s “Ainsi la nuit,” from 1976, rigorously structured, integrated down to its molecules, the work unfolded with such naturalness and weightless imagination that it felt almost improvised. That, no doubt, was largely because of the Arditti players themselves, who brought not only clarity and near-infinite detail to the work (which often has the impressionistic, wildly coloured feeling of a dream), but also a heady sense of spontaneity.
"In their concert at Wigmore Hall on 06/11/2015 --- In a typically bracing Arditti Quartet programme (including Feldman, Berio and an action-packed work called …in verästelten Gedanken… by the Swiss composer Michael Jarrell), the main interest was Harrison Birtwistle’s new piece, The Silkhouse Sequences. (…) Not easy listening, but exciting, and brilliantly delivered.
"In their concert at Wigmore Hall on 06/11/2015 --- The UK premiere of Michael Jarrell’s …in verästelten Gedanken… (Nachlese VIIb), (…) fully exploited the Arditti’s range of colours. In a tapestry of sounds that resembles no other, the quartet held us rapt with eerie harmonies, stabbed us with sudden, stratospheric shrieks, and, at the end, tick-tocked like a gathering of demented clocks, before fading, hauntingly, away. (…) Berio’s Sincronie (…) pushes the performers to their technical limits. The Arditti [Quartet], which has played this action-packed piece for years, made it seem easy.
"The Arditti Quartet inspires with serenity.
Schönberg in the morning: a good way to start the Sunday. At least when the Arditti Quartet plays Schoenberg at the end of the Musikfest and performs his third string quartet Opus 30 from 1927, which precisely balances genre convention and twelve-tone renewal, with a serenity that declares every dissonance to be the most harmonious thing in the world.
New music as a method of washing the listener's conditioned ears, as the art of disturbance? Not so with the masterful Ardittis. They unceremoniously declare a historical neo-toner like Arnold Schoenberg a classic (which he should have been long ago in today's concert business), give him an elegant Mozartian mezzoforte, dispense with all too powerful bow pressure even in the expressive passages of the first movement and the rondo, and embed every accelerando riot in the lyrical. This music is never opinionated. It spreads its arms and simply forgets itself at the end. True, final chords are overrated.
The more years the ensemble, founded in 1974 and specialising in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, has under its belt, the more relaxed it intones even the most complicated works. Quarter tones and micro-rhythms, nothing easier than that? If you know how to play them, yes. Or, as the quartet's founder Irvine Arditti, who was visibly in a good mood in the chamber music hall, likes to say: "Nothing is impossible if you just work at it long enough.
The serenity of the quartet, which values close collaboration with the composers, has an infectious effect. Even the British Brian Ferneyhough, born in 1943, one of the most demanding contemporary composers ever, suddenly sounds at this Musikfest matinee no longer like chronic overstraining and radical refusal of harmony, but like a joy of discovery and playing.
Irvine Arditti and his colleagues Ashot Sarkissian (second violin), Ralf Ehlers (viola) and Lucas Fels (cello) transform Ferneyhough's String Quartet No. 6 from 2010 into a kind of music of the spheres. Magically blown fragments of sound, twitching figurines, cantilenas interwoven with glissandi, delicately perforated, harmonics that harden into the glassy - almost 25 minutes non-stop. An odyssey in lofty heights, one likes to lose oneself in it.
"In the concert at the Schillertheater to mark 25 years since the death of Luigi Nono --- The Arditti Quartet performed the work Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima from 1979/80 to sheer unreal perfection. (…) The enthusiasm for these world-class artists was great.
"In the concert at the Schillertheater to mark 25 years since the death of Luigi Nono --- The Arditti Quartet, a proven authority on modern music, played the almost fragile notes in a state of heightened inner awareness [Luigi Nono’s Fragmente-Stille, An Diotima].
Tim Caspar Boehme
"After the performance with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Michael Jarrell’s Spuren (Nachlese VII) --- Jarrell thanked the musicians, who masterfully grasped how to implement his work in all its intensity, effusively.
"It’s difficult to imagine the utter stamina, technical prowess and fierce concentration required to pull off this musical juggernaut [Wolfgang Rihm’s Dithyrambe for string quartet and orchestra], with the smaller ensemble acting as a lightning rod for the German composer’s explosive ideas. Yet the fearless quartet showed its mettle in this Canadian première, performing the 30-minute expressionistic piece at warp speed with only momentary repose and brief solo sections that allowed each player to shine.
Winnipeg Free Press
"Guerrero Zayin Cycle
This is cerebral music, but not without immediate impact, or even assault, upon the senses. Guerrero's musical idiom is searching and anxious, almost feverish at times, yet compelling and original.
Perhaps most striking of all, however, is Zayin Vl for solo violin which, although it occasionally sounds like a Bach Partita distorted by poorly tuned short-wave radio, is a tour de force, not only on its own terms but also in context, where it seems to serve as a resume of the range of sounds previously generated by multiple instruments, almost in the manner of a mind-boggling cadenza.
The work offers a challenge to the listener, but one that is definitely worth undertaking, especially in this utterly convincing performance by the Arditti Quartet, which plays with quite astounding virtuosity.'
"Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival --- The Arditti Quartet played four of [Marco Stroppa’s La Vita Immobile’s] projected seven movements, each obsessing around a single colouristic or technical idea; each of them, of course, perfectly realised by the players.
"Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik --- Tricky pieces only develop adequately if they are played by top-ranking musicians. Irvine Arditti, Ashot Sarkissjan, Ralf Ehlers and Lucas Fels are just that. With their tantilisingly nonchalant accomplishment, one sometimes forgets the enormous difficulties of the works. In Manoury’s Melencolia, however, it once again becomes clear why the Arditti Quartet (with its changing members) has been enriching the contemporary music scene for 40 years. For the Ardittis, the term “unplayable” does not exist. They always maintain control and most certainly never lack musical presence, charisma and energy.
"The 40th-anniversary celebrations for the group that has done more than any other to enrich and expand the string quartet repertoire of our time just go on and on. As a follow up to their all-day marathon at Milton Court in April, the Arditti Quartet brought three more of their apparently endless supply of late 20th-century classics to the Wigmore Hall. The Arditti Quartet played all the works with – it is almost unnecessary to say – consummate, extraordinary mastery.
"Arditti Quartet 40th Birthday, Milton Court: 'a parade of marvels'."
"Even a whole day of concerts – three programmes containing 15 works, three of them world premieres – was hardly enough to convey the full extent of the Arditti Quartet's achievement across four decades, and how the recent history of the form would have been very different without it."
"One word describes it: Indefatigable. Not just Irvine Arditti's achievement of leading a string quartet for four decades, and premiering hundreds of new works, but also his 40th birthday party: An 11 hour day with three concerts showcasing 15 incredibly challenging avante-garde pieces (three of them world premieres) performed by the same four players. Just looking at the programme made me feel exhausted, yet Arditti thrives on delivering scores so fiendish that the notes swim before your eyes. I was mesmerised; first by the technical brilliance of their playing and the passion that this quartet brings even to the knotiest modern score, but also by how much works that baffled me in the 1970's and '80's now sound like familiar classics."
"The burden of time melted away as the Arditti Quartet led us through the intense viscerality of Lachenmann's musical language."
"Arditti Quartet's Monday Evening Concert at Zipper, part of its 40th anniversary tour, includes work by Elliott Carter and a performance of Helmut Lachenmann's 'Grido' that defies belief. Half of what Arditti did here simply didn't seem physically possible. Apparently it is."
"The quartet's performance was instead a spellbinding display of concentrated, fully-absorbed conviction."
"The Arditti String Quartet is one of the most formidable new-music ensembles on the planet, and its appearance at the Library of Congress on Tuesday night was something of an event: a marathon, three-hour concert that ranged from an early modernist quartet by Alban Berg to a dazzling new piece by the 40-something British composer Thomas Ades. "
"Wigmore Hall, London.
In a better, let alone ideal, world, more concert programmes would resemble this. New music, performed by musicians at the height of their powers, would stand at the very heart of musical life, as was the case until not so very long ago.
Ferneyhough 6th Quartet....Process as well as result at the very least sounded discernible or imaginable, doubtless in part a tribute to the superlative performances, here as elsewhere, from the Arditti Quartet. an extended solo for the first violin, here mesmerizingly performed by Irvine Arditti.
Paredes’s Canciones lunáticas....Jake Arditti, son of Irvine, joined the players in what again was a magnificent performance. His is a countertenor voice of considerable richness; his rendition was spellbinding, attentive to words and music, for he and the quartet did not merely perform but interpreted.
"The Arditti Quartet is the gold standard of contemporary chamber-music ensembles. I doubt that any current group has brought more new works into the world, many of exceptional quality. No one plays contemporary repertoire with more passion and skill. Globe and MailGlobe and Mail"
Globe and Mail, Toronto
"The Arditti Quartet were spellbinding."
"Es war ein großer, ja sensationeller Konzertabend, der Maßstäbe setzte (it was a great, yes sensational concert evening which set new standards) ; Die Ardittis...agierten auf einem geradezu schwindelerregendem Spitzenniveau (The Ardittis performed at a dizzyingly top class level) ; ..das alles ließ einen mehr als einmal den Atem anhalten vor Bewunderung ( The way they interpreted the music... took one's breath away more than once)."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"The Arditti played the six little pieces of Kurtag's Moments Musicaux with fabulous concentration, making every silence speak volumes, but then their command of every challenge this programme threw at them was astonishing."
"Tetras (1983) remains one of Xenakis’s most vital statements in any medium. Few composers can have so painstakingly calculated randomness so that it not only makes sense, but does so with such lack of inhibition – resulting in a piece which entertains as surely as it rivets the attention, especially when played with the dedication of the Arditti Quartet.
Seen and Heard
"The world's pre-eminent contemporary music quartet."
"(Recital Review Zankel Hall, New York)
I don't think there is an ensemble alive that could play this program with the kind of uncompromising finesse and authority that the Arditti Quartet displayed on Saturday night. One could not ask for a richer, more erudite and yes, more passionate demonstration of what contemporary string quartet writing is all about, than this magnificently conceived evening. Four different works, all with the capacity to make even expert musicians sweat bullets, were served up about as perfectly as anyone can expect. These four musicians' collective intellectual background, technical command and interpretive confidence all combined to make an evening that might be a model of contemporary quartet performance."
Seen and Heard International (Recital Review Zankel Hall, New York)
"There is no more competant formation in this field in the whole globe"
"It is impossible to overstate the impact of the Arditti Quartet on the development of contemporary chamber music."
"No one plays the modern quartet repertoire with the authority of the Arditti."
The Daily Telegraphy
"As it has done for more than a quarter-century with astonishing virtuosity and bravery, the Arditti Quartet continues to treat music as something of crucial importance and endless amazement."
"What is so extraordinary about the playing of the Ardittis is its technical mastery, allied with a profound understanding of how the music is built up."
"On Sunday evening the Arditti Quartet performed a characteristically uncompromising programme, all played with exceptional clarity and brilliance. The "classic", as they called it, was Webern's Five Pieces of 1909. More than 90 years later, their originality and modernity still astonish, while their quiet inwardness has a spirituality that puts much recent well-advertised "religious" music to shame.
The most difficult piece was the one which Elliot Carter had written for them, his Quartet No 5, while another work created for them, Jonathan Harvey's Third Quartet explored a fantastic range of string sonorities. The Ardittis concluded with Ligeti's splendid String Quartet No 2, another classic of the century. This was the their first visit to Sheffield.
"Stockhausen, Helikopter Streichquartett
Imagine it: four helicopters hover far above a concert hall, the sound of their rotors barely audible to those inside. In each helicopter is a member of a string quartet: no individual musician can hear his fellows, but their collective performance is synchronised via click-track; a microphone is attached to each instrument and another picks up the sound of the rotors. There is also a cameraman in each helicopter, his lens trained on the musician. Sound and images are fed back through a giant console in the concert hall. The noise of the rotors is mixed with the tremolos of the strings and projected into speakers placed all around the auditorium, and the four performers are visible on columns of video-display units. This is Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet.
Naturally the work caused quite a stir when it was first performed in 1995 at the Holland Festival by the Arditti Quartet, and some readers may have already made up their mind that this is too far-out for serious contemplation. And yet ... what if this CD were to become a cult classic? Certainly it is a crazy idea, but many of Stockhausen's ideas have been so considered in the past, and have yielded astonishing music. The CD presents an incomplete account of the composer's conception since it denies you the full effect of the spatial relationships and the visual experience of the live performance; but the sheer impact of the sound is sufficient to hold the listener's attention (well, this one's, anyway) for the duration of the piece. That said, there are moments when its direction is far from obvious, and Stockhausen's obsession with numbers finds baffling expression when the players begin sporadically to recite 'eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf ... '
This is the sort of thing that has commentators of Stockhausen's recent music pulling their hair out, but it meets the cult-classical requirement of real eccentricity. And then there are moments that are emphatically convincing: the final descent (from about 26'00''), which Stockhausen revised for this studio montage, is one. A video exists of rehearsals, interviews with the composer and the performers, and excerpts from the first performance. I remember Irvine Arditti, looking straight into the camera and saying, deadpan: 'He [Stockhausen] certainly knows what he wants. 'But even this experienced quartet must have regarded the project as truly special. Seekers-out of the bizarre, string quartet aficionados, '60s nostalgia-buffs, or simply the musically curious, should overlook the short playing time (what could possibly cap this?) and experience this fascinating piece.'
Fabrice Fitch "
Stockhausen Verlag CD 53A/B
"Throughout its 25-year existence the Arditti Quartet has been an invaluable performing voice, not only for established composers but also for young, less famous ones, for whom a performance by this renowned ensemble is a firm seal of approval."
"It is largely because of the extraordinary skill and dedication of the Arditti Quartet – which has specialised in new music throughout the last quarter of the century – that the string quartet is such a prominent feature of the contemporary musical scene. However difficult a piece might be, if it is competently written they can play it, and they must have given hundreds of first performances in their time. In most cases they have not just played the notes but, through a rare combination of instinct and analysis, illuminated character and structure as well."
"In the space of an hour the fabulous Ardittis encapsulated the versatility of quartet form and the Contemporary Music Festival’s ideas of continuity in development and imagination."
Huddersfield Daily Examiner
"I’ve given up groping for fresh superlatives to describe the Arditti’s music-making. They are way beyond praise."
"The Arditti’s ‘unique selling point’ is its vast and diverse range of contemporary repertoire, including music of fearsome complexity."
Classical Music Magazine
"The Arditti players manage to say more in a couple of bow strokes than some concerts communicate in total."
The Sunday Times
"Irvine Arditti and the changing collection of players he has grouped around him over [the last] quarter-century have […] done much to keep the quartet medium alive, well and kicking in the late-20th century, and I hope we hear more of their scrupulously prepared and ever-vital performances in concert this year than has recently been the case in this country."
"I caught riveting, surely perfect performances of Ligeti’s Second Quartet and Xenakis’s Tetras."
"The exemplary performances were a tribute to the knife-edge virtuosity and extraordinary dedication of […] splendid artists."
"Boldly travelling paths down which other musicians have neither the temperament nor technique to go."
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
"Modern-minded, innovative too - and certainly adventurous. […] The Arditti’s leading priority is to encourage people to write well for the medium, support quality music and enter into the closest possible artistic relationship with those composers who they choose to champion."
"A few years ago in Holland, the members of a string quartet appeared on a concert platform, took their opening bow, and promptly left the building. Carrying their instruments, they then climbed into waiting helicopters - one per player - and spent the next half-hour circling, airborne, around Amsterdam. Meanwhile, back at base, their audience sat in respectful silence, watching the proceedings on a bank of TV screens. Hard as it is to play a cello in a helicopter, this was a recital: the world premiere of a piece specifically written for performance several hundred feet above ground. The aerial interpreters were the Arditti Quartet, boldly going - as they always do - where others have neither the technique nor the inclination. And the composer was Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose declared objective was to give his score a head-start in its voyage home. Home was Sirius, the star which he had recently revealed to be his place of birth. No doubt it features on his passport.
"In precision of tuning and unanimity of ensemble, the Arditti Quartet remains almost unique. Its commitment to everything it does is so total the players convince you that even the most boldly experimental work belongs to the mainstream of music’s ongoing history, and to the mainstream of human feeling."
The Boston Globe
"Peerless interpreters of the cutting edge."
"Masters of contemporary chamber music in any of the most daunting styles you can name."
"To hear the quartet tear through a recent score is to hear it in the best possible light, done with a rare combination of precision and passion."
"The Arditti String Quartet is a composer’s – and audience’s – dream."
The Globe and Mail
"As disciplined and powerful sounding as ever."
Des oeuvres qes d'un intéret exceptionnel et par des interprète qui comptent parmi les plus brilliants d'aujourd'hui, le Quatuor Arditti
Les Ardittis y sont d'une ébloissante maitrise, ils nous conduisent dans ce labyrinthe avec une étonnante lucidité.
Works of exceptional interest performed by some of today's most brilliant performers, the Arditti Quartet.
The Ardittis are of a masterful eloquence, they lead us in this labyrinth with an astonishing lucidity.
Le Soir Brussels
"The uniquely accomplished Arditti quartet figured at the Almeida and elsewhere; their services to new quartet-writing is beyond price.
"It was another of those wild Arditti evenings: five string quartets were on the programme, the oldest of them dating from 1981, none of them heard before in this country, all of them dispatched with fantastic virtuosity.
These people must be stopped. Two centuries ago it was the publishers who were responsible for composers all over Europe pumping out quartets in half-dozens; now four musicians are having almost the same effect through their voracious appetite for new challenges.
"The Arditti Quartet is fast becoming as indispensable to our contemporary music life as the Sinfonietta has been for more than a decade.
The Arditti's programme at the ICA last February was for me the concert of the year, superbly played and presenting three of the masterpieces of the new string quartet literature, Ferneyhough's second, Carter's third and most magical and fugitive of all Nono's Fragmente Stille an Diotima.
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