I’ve just returned from the Rainy Days festival in Luxembourg where the Arditti Quartet gave the first performance of the piece commissioned for them by the festival. The piece was played in a wonderful event which ran from 12-7pm in the Salle de Musique in the astonishing Philharmonie, comprising five sets from the quartet. The festival’s theme was ‘take your time’, and each of the sections comprised a short piece (normally under five minutes) and a long piece (from the 20 minutes of Scelsi’s Second Quartet through to the 100 minutes of Feldman’s first String Quartet – the second had been played the day before). What added to the experience though was the food served between each block. Essentially we had a meal spread out over the day with four courses (soup, an excellent beef casserole, cheese, and apple tart) served between the music. This was very effective: both practical in the sense that we could concentrate on the music, and social in that the long table encouraged us to sit with different people. This is a very good format for a Sunday in a festival.
The Ardittis played wonderfully as ever, with highlights being Klaus Lang’s 47-minute drifting exploration of very quiet scalic movement and the first time I’d heard Terry Jennings String Quartet (the score is in Nyman’s Experimental Music, but I’ve never heard of a performance or recording before).
And it didn’t rain.