The working relationship between Stefano Scodanibbio and the Arditti Quartet has existed since the mid '80s. I remember very well looking at his first Quartet 'Visas,' which included some very unusual harmonics for the string instruments. These harmonics are very difficult to play and originate from Stefano's great command and knowledge of the double bass. I suppose in the beginning of our relationship, I needed convincing that these techniques were actually possible on the violin. Through our rehearsals and performances of this quartet, it became apparent that these harmonics were possible to play, and with extended hand positions could actually become quite fluent on the violin. Stefano's music is original both in his understanding and exploration of string techniques and the sound. Other pieces followed, and a few years later, I was presented with a further challenge in 'My new address' for solo violin. Stefano's approach to this solo work was to make a present day virtuoso challenge, always within his harmonic sound world. In the '90s followed a set of duos for each instrument of what he calls the 'real' string quartet: violin, viola, cello and double bass. This gave us (three of us) the possibility of actually playing as well as working with this composer on his music. This practice of working with the composer on his music has been existing from the very first concerts of the Arditti quartet, but now we were able to take this idea one step further. Stefano is a composer of today who has a very individual language within which he works, but one can also feel a real sense of development from one piece to another. None of these pieces are really similar in any way. I was very happy when we had the possibility to make these recordings to document this work.
ReviewsThe final two pieces are perhaps the finest. Jardins d'Hamilcar places flights of wondrous violin melody over rich, complex, shifting pedals on the double-bass; there are passages in which both instruments soar in consort, releasing rapid melodic lines in octaves; there are thrilling, dramatic counterpoints and a rumbustious dance; and the piece expires magically, in a florid outburst of bass harmonics. In part, these duos are so eloquent, so compelling, because theirs is music of such strong, clear, direct intention: complex yet lucidly articulate, visceral but guided by a luminous intelligence. And they're brought to life here in performances of passion and brilliance. I can't recommend this richly satisfying CD too highly. - Christopher Ballantine