The Strad Issue: July 2016
Description: Contemporary quartet works spoilt by outside interference
Musicians: Arditti Quartet
Composer: Feldman, Nunes, Zimmern, Lachenmann
Catalogue number: BMN MEDIEN 20159 (CD + BLU-RAY)

The Arditti Quartet’s clinically precise reading of three recent pieces, plus one from the modernist back catalogue by Morton Feldman, is entirely consistent with what we already know of their interpretative traits. But this release of Feldman’s Structures and music by Emmanuel Nunes, Alfred Zimmerlin and Helmut Lachenmann is deeply perplexing and frustrating.

Most unforgivably, during Feldman’s piece, other music is heard bleeding through from the surrounding environment. This is a live recording made in Basel in 2015, and the background chatter of another musician (an organist perhaps?) running through what sound like chorales is clearly discernable as Feldman’s isolated tones and delicate tick-tocking rhythms are set in motion. And this is not the only technical glitch. Bleeping electronic interference obscures the opening of Nunes’s Chessed III (1990–1), while bizarrely clumsy edits cut across the first movement of Zimmerlin’s String Quartet no.4 (2015) – which are obvious because the background atmospherics fail to mesh.

Lachenmann’s String Quartet no.3 ‘Grido’ (2001–2) emerges largely unscathed from the prevailing technical problems to receive an effortlessly neat and authoritative reading – but anybody who already owns the Arditti Quartet’s recording of the same piece on Kairos would be advised to sidestep this carelessly put-together release.

Philip Clark