tue 25/07/2017

Arditti Quartet, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Arditti Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Arditti Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Two difficult British exile composers receive ardent championship

The indefatigable Arditti Quartet:
Being a composer of contemporary classical music is a treacherous business. It's about the only art form in which stylistic choices can still force a creator into permanent exile. Two composers who have fallen foul of the British house style in recent decades and have sought musical asylum in America and Europe, Brian Ferneyhough and James Clarke, were receiving an extremely rare London premiere of their new string quartets at the Wigmore Hall last night. And you could see why Britain had shown them the door.
I came away from Ferneyhough's Sixth String Quartet defeated. Bafflement refused to give way to enlightenment

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Igor, I'm glad you were able to admit defeat with the Ferneyhough, simply because I think it's a position one doesn't often read from a critic. I've often heard things that I've really not got on with, but realised that I might not be clued up enough to grasp the work of a particular composer. I often think that bafflement either produces a reversion to critical clichés or critical dismissal of the work in question, so it's good to see someone honestly admitting to not understanding something. Although, there is always the possibility that it just wasn't very good!

My most rewarding experiences in music have all come with works that at first left me "baffled". When I come across a work by an established composer like Ferneyhough ("not very good"? I don't think so!) that I don't understand I am delighted. It means I have an opportunity to learn something- and often about deeper things than appreciating complex music. Stockhausen said, (though I doubt he was the first) "If you completely understood it you would learn nothing from it."

But if you don't find something to hook you in the first place, Paula, and you're not an academic or a musicologist, what's the point in continuing? If it leaves you completely cold and you decide it's entirely head-music - and Ferneyhough does that for me, though I will admit that there's so much intellectually I haven't grasped - then trust your judgment. And remember that the essence should be communication, a point Boulez mused on in a Q&A when he actually said something to the effect that composers like him might not have sufficiently taken into account the audience...

At last someone has recognised what boring and pointless sou]nds Fernyhough makes Kings new clothes? Please spare us more of this

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