One of the many good things about New Music concerts at the venerable Salzburg Festival is that a lot of people who have expensive tickets are leaving in the intermission. This comes in handy when the piece in the second half is Grido by Helmut Lachenmann, a composition that employs a lot of very quite sounds. Listening to the Arditti Quartet is always a pleasure. Doing so from the first row is quite a rare treat, at least for me.
Another good thing about New Music concerts at Salzburg is, that there is always a good mix of well-known classics of contemporary music and newly comissioned works. Yesterdays concert, for example, was to include a new piece by Brian Ferneyhough, Dum Transisset, which was conceived to include four movements. Unfortunately only two of them were finished in time. Even more unfortunately, the Ardittis could perform only one of them, due to insufficient rehearsal time. If you know other pieces by Ferneyhough and if you remember that the whole world was stuck at Heathrow airport last week, you will understand why the quartet that has a reputation for trying the impossible, decided not try their luck. In any case there was another piece by Ferneyhough on the program: last year’s String Quartet No. 5.
The other String Quartet No. 5 on the program, composed by Pascal Dusapin, impressed all of us with its tightly woven texture in which precise contrapuntal lines and spacious harmonic progressions were arranged around a tonal center (on the pitch “d”?). The concert opened with a String Quartet by Hanspeter Kyburz (*1960), the mathematical construction of which was difficult to grasp for the audience.