CONCERT REVIEW: Arditti Quartet, Melbourne Recital Centre

Liz Seymour

Violinist Irvine Arditti has been at the helm of his eponymous string quartet for three and a half decades, and it is the subtlety and strength of his restrained leadership that anchors the ensemble.
CONCERT REVIEW: Arditti Quartet, Melbourne Recital Centre
Violinist Irvine Arditti has been at the helm of his eponymous string quartet for three and a half decades, and it is the subtlety and strength of his restrained leadership that anchors the ensemble, while an intense stage presence draws his colleagues into an orbit bristling with refined vigour. Part 1 of Melbourne Recital Centre’s The New Quartet program opened with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge Op. 133 in B flat major. Arditti’s familiarity with contemporary repertoire seemed to afford the 19th-century composer’s work a residual modernity not unbecoming to such an intrinsically strong piece. Program notes volunteered the quartet’s preference for close work with a composer during the development of a piece, and it wouldn’t have been flooring to learn that judicious use of Ouija board had been deployed during their preparation. Birtwistle’s The Tree of Strings followed with an air of cagey melancholy, creeping in on veering and discordant moans which at one point were rendered almost vocal by violist Ralf Ehlers. Momentum was maintained through a fine balance of energy and restraint, and the whole handled deftly. Schoenberg’s String Quartet no.2 luxuriated over the entire second half, opening beautifully under the spell of some descendent reverence. Soprano Merlyn Quaife presided benignly over the initial two movements before unleashing a powerful voice balanced to hover and dip and sinuously blend with its instrumental counterparts, while Irvine Arditti's consistent, marked breathing belied a tightly controlled performer quietly tying together the fine but very strong strands of his quartet. Delicate acoustics were delivered admirably by Melbourne Recital Centre’s freshly deflowered Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, though undimmed lighting over the audience offered my neighbor an ample preview of this review" perhaps I should have asked for a second opinion. Arditti Quartet is at Melbourne Recital Centre for further concerts on Saturday 21 and Monday 23 February. Each concert's program varies. See www.melbournerecital.com.au/res/BIOGS/arditti.pdf for more details.

About the author

Liz Seymour writes occasionally and has a black belt in sleep. She co-edits a magazine and shares an outdoor toilet with Sean Wilson. Check it out at the address below (the magazine).