The Arditti Quartet enjoys a global reputation for their spirited and technically refined interpretations of contemporary and earlier 20th century music. Several hundred string quartets and other chamber works have been written for the ensemble since its foundation by first violinist Irvine Arditti in 1974. These works have left a permanent mark on 20th century repertoire and have given the Arditti Quartet a firm place in music history. Such composers as Adès, Aperghis, Birtwistle, Cage, Carter, Dufourt, Dusapin, Fedele, Ferneyhough, Francesconi, Gubaidulina, Harvey, Hosokawa, Kagel, Kurtág, Lachenmann, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Rihm, Scelsi, Sciarrino and Stockhausen have entrusted the world premieres of their music to them, and the quartet’s repertoire comprises all of the string quartets of many of the above composers and others.
The ensemble believes that close collaboration with composers is vital to the process of interpreting modern music and therefore attempts to collaborate with every composer whose works it plays. Teaching for many years at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music, the players have given numerous master classes and workshops for young performers and composers all over the world.
The Arditti Quartet’s extensive discography now features well over 180 CDs. 42 discs have so far been released as part of the ensemble’s continuing series on the French label Naïve Montaigne alone. The series presents numerous contemporary composer features as well as the first digital recordings of the complete Second Viennese School’s string quartet music. Renowned for recording many composers’ works in their presence, the quartet recorded the complete quartets of Luciano Berio shortly before his death. Legendary episodes in recent music history have also been immortalised on CD such as the ensemble’s recording of Stockhausen’s spectacular Helicopter Quartet.
Over the past 40 years, the ensemble has received many prizes for its work. It has won the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis several times and the Gramophone Award for the best recording of contemporarymusic in 1999 (Elliott Carter) and 2002 (Harrison Birtwistle). The prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize was awarded to them in 1999 for lifetime achievement in music, setting the quartet on a par with other winners such as Berio, Britten, Carter, Ferneyhough, Lachenmann, Ligeti and Rihm.
In January 2017 the Arditti Quartet was part of the opening festival of the new Elbphilharmonie with the first performance of Younghi Pagh-Paan’s first string quartet. The Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik presented Harrison Birtwistle’s latest string quartet, which received its world premiere last season at the Wigmore Hall. An extended version of Mark Andre’s work iv13a, which was originally composed as a contribution to the quartet’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2014, was premiered in July at musica viva in Munich. In the current season they also interpreted a new quartet by Hugues Dufourt, as well as a new work for guitar and string quartet by Wolfgang Rihm; finally they premiered a composition by Salvatore Sciarrino with the countertenor Jake Arditti. The musicians also take a keen interest in new concert formats, which include Jennifer Walshe’s performance EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT for voice, string quartet, video and tape. The work was premiered in Darmstadt and can be seen at several festivals (Gong, November Music, Huddersfield, MaerzMusik) and at the Onassis Centre Athens during the course of the season.