Based upon its length of service to the cause of adventurous contemporary music and the overall quality of its playing, the Arditti Quartet can take pride in a history that has consistently showcased, in the most honorable manner, a depth of commitment to modern composers that is truly striking.
This was born out Friday night as Irvine Arditti, the group's founder and visionary leader, sat on stage for a pre-concert talk with four of the five composers who had quartets scheduled for performance on the evening's program.
It was then that all of the composers expressed their joy with the process of working directly with such skilled and committed musicians as the Arditti Quartet.
Brian Ferneyhough, who has worked with the group since the 1980s, was particularly effusive in his praise, talking about the value of interaction between composer and performer while Arditti spoke of being able to talk on the phone or in person with the composer and question them about specific instances in the score relating to interpretation.
By the time the concert rolled around, Arditti and his cohorts in the quartet were able to display exactly why they deserved their reputation for devotion to the new and challenging.
It wasn't a coincidence that the bulk of the music scheduled for the evening was dedicated to and/or commissioned for the Arditti Quartet.
First up on the program was Elliott Carter's fifth string quartet, a piece filled with plucked strings, harmonics and short, savage bursts of sound that were reminiscent of Anton von Webern's brief sonic explosions. This score was followed by David Felder's "Stuck-stucke," a work of sonic density and intensity that also delivered moments containing an almost childlike innocence.
It was definitely one of the most impressive chamber music pieces in his already impressive canon.
After the intermission came works by Hilda Paredes ("Cuerdas del destino" in its U.S. premiere), Ferneyhough ("Dum Transisset 1-4" in its U.S. premiere) and a string quartet by James Clarke. Of those three scores, the Ferneyhough was probably the most consistently interesting, taking material created by Christopher Tye, a Renaissance composer, and deconstructing it in the same manner a chef would take in reducing a salad to its components and then spacing them around a platter in an artful manner.
Arditti String Quartet
Friday night in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo North Campus, Amherst.