Review Irvine Arditti 70th Birthday Concert, Wigmore Hall, London by James Ellis 

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

My last encounter with the Arditti Quartet was less than memorable, though I’d never let that hold them down. In a birthday celebration for its founder, Irvine Ariditti, Wigmore Hall had done all but put out the bunting. 

Their world premiers were an exciting prospect for this concert, first with Roger Reynolds and his imAge for solo violin. I like the smart format of the name of the piece though I held it in contempt a bit, its harshness seemingly defining the work. It did find some footing in its liberal look at the violin, Irvine proving he’s the man for the job, an esteemed musician who can do anything really.

Unsuk Chin from South Korea gave us the next new work: Gran Cadenza, Irvine being joined by Ashot Sarkissjan for this weird ping pong feat. Chin is a fascinating composer, though this was a bit dull, her intense nature not really present either.The real treat was Xenakis’ Ikhoor, for the full quartet who gave a stupendous outing of this chilling piece. If you cant get Xenakis you’d be wise to avoid a piece like this, its unwavering brittleness is a joy for some. 

Sven-Ingo Koch and his new piece: String Quartet No. 3 offered insight and a more subtle encounter, the third movement being noteworthy for its nuanced tenderness. This final premiere proved how versatile Irving and the quartet can be, yet the type of music is unrelentingly contemporary and heavy. Irvine’s wife Hilda Paredes took the Mexican poetry of Pedro Serrano and transformed it into a blazing triumph. Their step-son Jake Arditti joined forces as a sweet, soulful countertenor, some bizarre moments for him including whispering and a finger over the mouth to imply insanity (if that makes sense?). The fine, pastoral verse was well met, with the soft quartet writing as well.

Here’s to many more, Irving! 

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