Hilliard Ensemble and Arditti Quartet at Huddersfield Festival
November 24, 2009, 12:00 am
Hilliard Ensemble/Arditti Quartet
St Paul's Hall, Huddersfield
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 22 November 2009 22.15 GMT
After a couple of years when Britain's leading new-music festival seemed to be losing its way in a welter of improvisation, installations and electro-acoustic environments, it's more like business as usual in Huddersfield this November. Premieres abound, and the roster of visiting ensembles is impressive by any standards. As if to signal the change of tack, the festival opened with a UK premiere from one of Europe's leading composers, Wolfgang Rihm, delivered by the Hilliard Ensemble and Arditti Quartet in St Paul's Hall just five days after its first performance in Cologne.
Rihm's hour-long –ET LUX– is a requiem of sorts. The fragmentary Latin text comes from the requiem mass, though it's only decipherable when isolated words emerge from the dense four-part textures. The string quartet traces a series of etiolated, rather Nono-like ideas against the somewhat archaic-sounding vocal writing. There are few climaxes, or even moments when the voices and strings unite in anything like a common purpose, yet the result is quietly attractive.
The Huddersfield contemporary music festival continues until Sunday. Box office: 01484 430528.