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Five weeks condensed into three, with BILL NEWMAN


Berlin Reichtstag. Photo (c) Bill Newman

<< Continued from last week

Luigi Nono's works require far more concentrated effort from the listener; a daring challenge for any Sunday afternoon audience more used to the local band in the park! But this is the kind of fare that Berlin's music devotees take in their stride with their almost fanatical desire for new experimental sounds.

The Arditti Quartet have a recognized penchant for devoting their repertoire to demanding 20th century compositions of acknowledged importance, and when lst and 2nd violins took their position high up in the auditorium, opposite each other, shifting stations as the composer demanded in Hay que caminar Soñando, I had to imagine myself in an aircraft in the stratosphere aware of high pitched harmonics in the ears, which floating downwards became stilled in the imagination before changes in tonal perspective through loss of altitude altered them into something completely different. There is a connecting thread to the various strands of sound, but you have to 'discover' it yourself. Fragmente -- Stille. An Diotima for string quartet widens the sonic spectrum even further, and in my quest for enlightenment I asked Irvine Arditti to talk with me later in more detail in London. 'We are hardly ever there!', he replied, but offered me his artist contact for 2001.

The Arditti Quartet. Nono. 17 September 2000. Photo (c) Bill Newman

By this time I realized that an embarrassment of musical riches was about to take place through a series of carefully planned programmes featuring top-notch performances by artists fully prepared to meet each and every musical and technical challenge, rare and familiar alike. 20th century Czech masters afforded perfect opportunities.

Martinu's Madrigale is well known on disc, but to hear three selections -- for oboe, clarinet and bassoon; violin and viola; flute, violin and piano at the start of Ensemble Aventure's vastly entertaining programme, is unusual. This is far more than mere note spinning, as Martinu's critics unfairly label some of his output, but full of harmonic inventions mounted on an astute folkloristic setting. Alois Hába's many-toned idioms can cause confusion to listeners, but the Pellegrini Quartet's choice of Quartet No 14, Op 94 measures the occasional quarter tone passage within a natural harmonic setting without distractions. Imagine my surprise when they joined up with Ensemble Aventure for the Nonet No 3, Op 82, a full scale tonal work of 'orchestral' propensities -- strings, winds and brass (including a gorgeous part for French horn) in the style of Richard Strauss through to Hindemith.

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Copyright © 12 December 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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