A tour with a festival appearance, a visit to a university, workshops, and new pieces in the luggage - for the Arditti Quartet in its 46th year of existence, this is no different from everyday routine, isn't it? Well, not in the Corona summer of 2020. After months of silence, the four musicians, together with their audience, rediscovered the ritual "live concert". Irvine Arditti reports about a small tour with great experiences.
It was quiet in the past months, we couldn't play in front of an audience and we weren't allowed to meet. We are not in agreement about which was worse ... In mid-August, things finally gained momentum again: Lights on – on stage! And sound off, live from us!
"European Centre for the Arts" in Hellerau near Dresden. No better place is imaginable to literally overtake the slowed down reality. We have connected Hellerau with the festival "June in Buffalo". Technical super-professionals, a small audience on site and a live stream for the people in the USA – that's how we were able to play/stream a concert with Carter, Birtwistle and David Felder and after discussion- and rehearsal days across continents and time zones, the delayed premieres of the pieces by eight young composers: Xuesi Xu, Jack Herscowitz, Yifan Guo, Daniel Gostelow, Tomek Arnold, Edgar Girtain, Young Jun Lee and Joel Kirk.
Next stop on our first tour: Eisenach. We played Dusapin, Kurtág, Felder and Ligeti at the "Yiddish Summer Weimar". That was an Arditti debut, we were very happy about that! Achim Heidenreich, the head of the cultural office and author for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, had invited us. In his interview with Lucas, a few weeks before the concert, the difficulties during the lockdown were discussed.
Frankfurt am Main
The trip continued to Frankfurt to the HfMDK (University of Music and Performing Arts) and the IZM (Institute for Contemporary Music) there. This is Lucas' home, and this time the other three of us came along as a kind of reinforcement (smiley). We were expected here by students from Tim Vogler's chamber music class with L. Berio's Glosse and composers from the classes of Orm Finnendahl and Michael Reudenbach. Many notes! Playing from the score – with page-turners – could not be done due to distance rules. Nevertheless: we workshopped pieces by Alexander Reiff, Dayoung Park, Teresa Grebtschenko, Robin Wächtershäuser and Feng Bao.
After the university, a private initiative. Traudl Herrhausen has been our equally charming and generous hostess. A well-considered private setting, plus the weather forecast for a stormy evening and already the concert meant that the concert had to be moved from the open house with garden to the Orangery Kursalon with a panoramic view of the park. We sat in the middle and turned around after the second piece, so that everyone had a chance to view us from behind (!). Who would have thought that we would be playing Dutilleux, Mundry, the premiere of the 5th quartet of James Clarke and Rihm in such a setting? 70 people were allowed to come, 70 were also there. And 74 enjoyed playing and eating – we did too!
The manor house with its enchanting garden, situated in the middle of the best vineyards and managed by Konrad and Barbara Stahl, a place we had grown to love, was once again our base on these beautiful summer days. We really took a breath of fresh air for the concert, which was moved to the Protestant Church due to lack of space. The programme was performed by an incredibly disciplined audience that kept its distance: Dutilleux, Mundry, the premiere of the 6th quartet by James Clarke (as well as the 5th composed in the past months of silence) and Rihm. What an honour and pleasure to see Wolfgang in the front row during the performance! The post-concert evening with him under the starry sky was long and beautiful.
And finally, a quick look back 250 years, not 25 years as is often the case here. The occasion is the Hölderlin Year. The connection to music? Simple answer with two names: Zender and Nono. Hölderlin's birthplace Lauffen am Neckar is just two hours drive from Weingarten, close to Lake Constance, where it is commemorated. Has Hölderlin ever visited the largest baroque church north of the Alps? We played Nono's Fragments, Silence - an Diotima for him, and Hans Zender's Mnemosyne, Hölderlin lesen IV, who lived nearby until his death a year ago, and the audience, who – carried away by our sounds – will find an overwhelmingly open space in this former Benedictine abbey to pursue their own thoughts.
All that remains now is our gratitude.
The courage radiated by all the people we met during these two weeks and the effort it took to organise the concerts and courses impressed, delighted and moved us. We all know that we have moved far from the obvious together. Thank you very much Moritz Lobeck, Achim Heidenreich, the HfMDK Frankfurt, Traudl Herrhausen, Barbara and Konrad Stahl and Rolf Stoll for inviting us and for your hospitality. And nothing works without financial support. Many things have only been made possible on this tour by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and the Hans and Gertrud Zender Foundation. We would like to thank them expressly for this.
Oh yes, we started with "Lights on!", but now we don't even mention the really best lights (the usual spotlights didn't really play any role on this tour): the crystal chandelier in the Kursalon, that really impressed us! And the sound was perfect in every place – we took care of that!
See you soon.
Irvine Arditti, September 2020