by Simon Collings

I went to a great concert this lunchtime given by the Ligeti Quartet at St John’s Smith Square, London, part of their ‘young artists’ series’. The quartet specialises in twentieth-century repertoire and this programme focused particularly on ‘miniatures’ – Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet,  Kurtag’s Six Moments Musicaux, Webern’s Six Bagatelles, and a piece by Anna Meredith from 2005 called Ravens. The concert ended with Lutoslawski’s String Quartet which is built up from a series of units the composer called ‘mobiles’.

I hadn’t heard the Kurtag piece before. It’s characteristically pithy – the longest movement is 3.5 mins – drawing inspiration from a variety of musical and non-musical sources, and full of contrasting moods. I found a recording of the Athena Quartet playing the piece. The Lutaslawski quartet I love – there are several performances of it on YouTube.

I first heard the Ligeti Quartet several years ago in Oxford and wrote a enthusiastic review of their concert for the local paper. I admire them for championing contemporary repertoire, and for the passion with which they play it. The quartet is performing at St John’s again on 10 May in a programme which includes some very accessible work – including Nancarrow’s String Quartet No.3, Bartok’s third quartet, and Ligeti’s wonderful first quartet. I recommend it.