Irvine Arditti’s thoughts on new music for
string quartet are revealed in correspondence with Arditti Quartet manager
and spnm council member Julia Haferkorn:
I asked Stockhausen at least four times if he would write us a string
quartet. His reply each time was negative: "‘String Quartets’,
‘Symphonies’, ‘Concertos’ – I cannot write such
things, I have never written such a thing."
I guess it was the classical concept of a string quartet that worried
Karlheinz, not in fact the idea of writing for string quartet, as, after
he had a dream about helicopters flying in formation, ‘Helikopter’
quartet was born.
The string quartet is a medium that has been around for several hundred
years, and the burden of history may have left some nowadays to fear this
most perfect of mediums. It is those who learn not to fear the past and
are able to channel their imagination into the present who will be able
to write successful string quartets. Stockhausen in fact did precisely
this, creating a work and concept totally new, as one might expect from
The world of the Arditti Quartet is something quite different from that
of a classical quartet. We are constantly adding to our repertoire with
each new season bringing a fresh crop of new scores. It is accepted that
these new scores will have varying degrees of success, some making it
into our regular repertoire and some after their initial exposure, ‘visited’
from time to time. In general we try to be as broad-minded as possible,
but it is true that the more challenging and genuinely original the work
is, regardless of style, the more it is likely to appeal.
Composers sometimes ask what sort of work we want but apart from realistic
duration limitations. I am reluctant to give further information. There
should be virtually no restrictions, and composers should be free to follow
their imagination to the full. The potential for string quartet writing
There is often a great feeling of excitement and expectation with new
scores arriving through the post; usually long awaited, but often unpredicted
as to its content of challenges. An example of this was the new piano
quintet from Tom Adès with its ever changing tempi and differing
meters within the ensemble. The première will be at the Melbourne
festival in Australia this year, with the first chance to hear it in England
at next year's Aldeburgh festival. Other highlights this autumn include
scores by Magnus Lindberg and Helmut Lachenmann. Both are planned for
UK première at the South Bank.
Someone asked me a few years ago at a 'State of the Nation' weekend what
the chances were for the Arditti Quartet to play a young composer's piece.
I replied "very slim". I am pleased to say that with the now
renewed interest from the South Bank, both in concert programming and
workshop possibilities, we are able to have more contact with young composers
living in the UK.
Our first venture in this field in the UK was actually at the 1999 Huddersfield
Festival where (spnm shortlisted composer) Paul Usher was selected
for performance, after a workshop with the top three choices. Following
this, I asked Paul for a new piece, which was commissioned by the Ingolstadt
Festival in Germany, where it will be premiered this summer.
The Quartet has been involved in master classes and workshops all over
the world and I consider this to me of prime importance in our list of
activities. It is essential that young composers have the chance to work
with us and try out their new ideas in order that they can not only hear
what they wrote but find out what we can really do.
Irvine Arditti is founder and leader of the
In conjunction with spnm and the South Bank Centre,
the quartet give a workshop for composers at State of the Nation, and
on 19 April they give a concert in the QEH – see listings
section for details.
What do you think?
We would welcome any responses to the articles featured
in new notes. Click here
to read what other people have thought about recent cover articles.
The monthly listings magazine new
notes is essential reading for composers, performers, and everyone
interested in what's new in new music. In its printed version new notes
reaches over 5,000 contemporary music enthusiasts in the UK and around
If you promote new music events you should advertise them in new notes.
Single concert listings are just £50+VAT. The magazine also features
ads for festivals, composer competitions, recordings and more.
new notes also features
monthly articles on issues at the forefront of new music
special offers on CDs, tickets, scores and books for spnm members
information about forthcoming spnm events
a free classified section for spnm members' non-trade ads.
For full details on advertising or inserting leaflets in new notes
please contact the Editor: John Fosbrook
Event listings for this
Promotion and Profitability
the World to the Warehouse
price new music?
from start to finish
challenge from Michael Oliva
the next century...
obsessed with consuming?
welcomes Joanna MacGregor.
Spectrum 2 - miniatures for
Hoxton Hall New Music Days.
Bath International Music Festival is 50.
Who is Georges Aperghis?
On frost, birth and death
Now that's what I call contemporary!