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Arditti Quartet: Irvine Arditti (Violin), Ashot Sarkissjan (Violin), Ralf Ehlers (Viola), Lucas Fels (Cello)

Brian Ferneyhough: String Trio (1995)

Talk between Helmut Lachenmann and Michael Rebhahn

Helmut Lachenmann: Mes Adieux. Streichtrio Nr. 2 (2021/22)

Arditti Quartet

Brian Ferneyhough: String Trio

Unlike the string quartet, the trio genre has never developed a clear tradition. Emerging, as it did, from the baroque Trio Sonata rather than the dynamic developmental lineage of the classical Sonata-Allegro form, it has tended to remain curiously uncertain as to its own specific identity. During the 19th century the String Trio was not a frequently-encountered combination and, in spite of a number of key works by leading composers of our own century (Schönberg, Webern) it has remained an ‘outsider’ in the corpus of chamber music formations.

My own String Trio attempts to take this lineage into account, particularly with respect to the ambiguity of expressive ductus, which fluctuates uneasily between the serenade-like and the more densely linear-developmental approach customarily associated with the string quartet medium. There are four main sections, the first of which exposes three successive solos (viola, violin, cello) of varying, readily identifiable character, each immediately followed by its own ‘amplification’ in all three instruments; the second is basically a set of ‘variations on an absent theme’ in a consistently fast tempo, to which the third, a ‘Largo desolato’ based on multiple scannings of the single, static chordal formation heard in the solo viola at the outset of the work provides a strong contrast. The final main section might perhaps be seen as an abbreviated combination of scherzo and rondo features, beginning as it does with multiple glissandi in high register and becoming progressively more violent and polyphonic as it moves down into lower regions.

Separating these main segments are punctuating statements of four brief types of ‘Intervention’ texture which, in the course of the work’s unfolding, gradually come to assume responsibility for the substance of the discourse – so much so, indeed, that, by the end, the final statement of Intervention I is heard as an expansively fragile movement in its own right, gradually transposing downward the static chordal structure encountered earlier until it disappears out of the ensemble’s bottom range. Characteristic of both this category of Intervention and the ‘Largo desolato’ is the consistent employment of eighth-tone microintervals.

– Brian Ferneyhough

Brian Ferneyhough with the Arditti Quartet and students in Darmstadt 1982.
Brian Ferneyhough talks to Helmut Lachenmann in Darmstadt 1990.

Helmut Lachenmann: Mes Adieux. Streichtrio Nr. 2

Introductions by the composer to what has just been created, not only for the program booklet, should recognize themselves as misleading, especially if the other person is not familiar with them. A composer has nothing to say to his environment, even to society. He has, creatively charged, to create something in view of his visions. He is a medium. And what is created will “say” more to whichever listener, not least to the composer himself, than he suspects.

If it is meant to be: my second string trio is – like every one of my compositions – the result of the attempt to further open up my own compositional practice, developed since 1969, to a “Musique concrète instrumentale” without forgetting its approach. This has always moved the physical energy of the sounding into the center of musical perception in a different way, and in doing so has put the concept of music itself, as it were “sobering”, at risk. In my last works it was a matter of advancing in this way not into the unknown, but into the known. Listening becomes observing, also observing oneself, in the encounter, often also in the irritating clash of one’s own structure with the structure of the work, in the new string trio as an encounter with what is thoroughly familiar and in a new light at the same time strange and so “cheerfully” parting. (Once again, as in the previously written horn concerto: “My Melodies” and at the same time “Mes Adieux”).

– Helmut Lachenmann

Helmut Lachenmann with the Arditti Quartet in Darmstadt 1982.
© ️Kristof Lemp
© ️IMD / Kristof Lemp
© ️IMD-Archiv/ Manfred Melzer
© ️IMD Archiv/ Manfred Melzer 1990
© ️IMD-Archiv/ Manfred Melzer