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David ARDITTI (b. 1964)
String Quartet No. 1 in D minor Op. 7
String Quartet No. 2 in G minor Op. 31
Ludamus (1); Bingham Quartet (2)
Recorded live at Stanmore Church, Stanmore, London, November 1998 (Quartet No. 1) and Chapel of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London, 8 October 2003 (Quartet No. 2)
Private release [45:19]

 

Brought up in Christchurch, Dorset of mixed Austrian/Jewish descent, David Arditti is largely self-taught as a composer although he acknowledges the advice of David Matthews and Anthony Payne during the course of his development. Initially studying for a career in science, music gradually took over and his catalogue of works now includes a number of song cycles and substantial choral pieces, several works for orchestra and several chamber works.

This disc has been self-produced by the composer from recordings of the premieres of both works, the Second Quartet as recently as October 2003.

For just a fleeting moment at the very opening of the Quartet No. 1 in D minor the oscillating quavers seem to point to the music of Philip Glass, but any such comparison is immediately dispelled in dramatic fashion as the music suddenly leaps back one hundred and fifty years. What Arditti has produced here are pretty much fully formed classical quartets, stylistically not a million miles away from Dvořák and almost pastiche but for the fact that there is a genuine sense of personal sincerity and honesty in the way the composer communicates. Put another way, Arditti writes as though the twentieth century had simply failed to arrive.

The Quartet No. 1 proceeds via a subdued opening movement marked Andante, a brief yet contrasting Largo and an initially sombre Adagio, the melody of which is a close relation to the principal theme of the first movement. This soon transforms into a livelier dance-like central section. The Moderato-Allegro vivace finale builds to a conclusion of relative light heartedness.

The Second Quartet in G minor is immediately more arresting for the quality of the playing. The Bingham Quartet is considerably superior to Ludamus in their performance although they do also benefit from a recording that is not as badly affected by extraneous noise. The composer also seems to have matured in that his melodic writing has acquired a greater sense of confidence. The moderato second movement in particular shows moments of touching charm. The basic elements however are the same, four classically styled movements, this time culminating in a set of "Variations on an Invented Folk-song"; very much in the style of the air-varié and possibly with faint reminiscences of Scottish folk song. The result is effective and demonstrates considerable imagination in the treatment of the theme.

Making acquaintance with these quartets is a somewhat surreal listening experience and depending on your stance I suspect that the music will either be loved or hated with little room for indifference in the middle. Arditti is clearly resolute and unashamed in his compositional path however and has to be applauded for writing what I believe comes very much from the heart. The melodies are warm and in some cases undeniably attractive but ultimately it is difficult to imagine that his extreme retro-conservatism will stand the test of time or continued inspiration without the exploration of broader stylistic territory.

Christopher Thomas

 

 



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