Music review: Arditti Quartet
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Arditti Quartet at Queen’s Hall, reviewed by Carol Main
[Picture: Astrid Karger]
The American composer Conlon Nancarrow was apparently convinced that the Arditti Quartet could play anything, and went on to write his fiendishly difficult Quartet No 3 especially for them.
More than justifying Nancarrow’s confidence in their abilities, the Arditti gave a staggering performance of it yesterday morning in the Queen’s Hall, along with extraordinarily challenging music by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis and – albeit in a different way – Janácek.
Nancarrow, who spent most of his life as a reclusive, solitary composer writing for the player piano, is fascinated by rhythm and his two original string quartets, plus two player piano studies arranged for string quartet, made for revelatory listening. All four pieces focussed on the use of canon in music, with incredibly complex lines, whether rhythmically, tonally or technically. The Arditti gave a phenomenal performance of this highly distinctive and unusual composer, who made a fine partner to his near contemporary, Xenakis.
His Ikhoor Trio and Tetras Quartet were ideal vehicles to show off the Arditti’s strengths, especially their precision as a closely-bound ensemble. Sure, there are grunts, creaks, squeaks and sliding sounds, but this music has a core that is somehow both ancient and originally modern.
Originally published in The Scotsman