The founder of the iconic Arditti Quartet reflects on a life devoted to contemporary music
Although this is the Arditti Quartet’s 44th year, I am the only original member. The others joined between 2003 and 2006, and so never had the chance to work with Berio, Carter, Ligeti or Nono, for example, on their quartets.
It’s up to me to pass on my knowledge of how composers such as these wanted their music to be played. Line-up changes aren’t as daunting as people think, however. Sometimes the sound of the quartet is altered somewhat, but having a new pair of ears in the room allows you to listen afresh to pieces you haven’t worked on for ages.
I was 13 when I met Xenakis and Messiaen at the English Bach Festival in Oxford. There was a performance of Messiaen’s Chronochromie and he and his wife, Yvonne Loriod, played his Visions de l’Amen, but it was Xenakis’s orchestral piece Terretektorh that left the greater impression on me.
A couple of years later, I sat in on a violin masterclass given in Darmstadt by Saschko Gawriloff on Gasa by Isang Yun. Saschko asked me if I was going to participate, but there was no way I could have tackled the piece at that stage. First I needed to learn how to play the violin properly. I did that at the Royal Academy of Music in London, although neither of my teachers there…
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