Peter Ruzicka: String Quartets

Arditti Quartet, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

CD18,90 out of print

The Arditti Quartet, tireless proponents of the experimental and the recondite, received in June ’99 the coveted Siemens Prize, Europe’s most prestigious contemporary music award.The painstaking care they expend upon Peter Ruzicka’s post-modern compositions, fragile music-about-music, is further evidence of why the Ardittis are one of the most highly-acclaimed string quartets of our time. On Ruzicka’s 4th quartet, they are joined by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the world-famous lieder/opera singer taking an unfamiliar role as speaker, reading texts by Paul Valery, Peter Handke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Theodor W. Adorno, Dieter Schnebel, Paul Celan, Ingeborg Bachmann, Cesar Pavese, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, which Ruzicka scatters amid the notes.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 1996 & October 1997

Original Release Date


  • 1"...über ein Verschwinden" (3. Streichquartett)
    (Peter Ruzicka)
  • 2Klangschatten
    (Peter Ruzicka)
  • "...fragment..." - Fünf Epigramme für Streichquartet
    (Peter Ruzicka)
  • 3Molto calmo, statico01:29
  • 4Eccitato00:51
  • 5Sfasciarsi01:23
  • 6Movimentato01:04
  • 7Indistinto02:54
  • 8Introspezione, Dokumentation für Streichquartett (1. Streichquartett)
    (Peter Ruzicka)
  • 9"...sich verlierend" für Streichquartett und Sprechstimme (4. Streichquartett)
    (Peter Ruzicka)
An intriguing and thought-provoking album from German composer Peter Ruzicka, played by the Arditti Quartet, currently in the news as winners of the coveted Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis, the most important contemporary music award.

The four string quartets on this recording - as well as the short study Klangschatten (composed for the 90th birthday of Viennese publisher Alfred Schlee) - show several perspectives of a composer whose music, as Thomas Schäfer writes, "hesitates, leaves things open, withdraws, looks for silence - only to suddenly break out again, searching wildly, rebelling desperately." This music moves between extremes, "the disturbing calm of bows drawn tonelessly across the tailpieces in the third quartet and the breathless rush of the second quartet's eccitato movement. 'Music announcing a personal credo', it would formerly have been called. The composer himself sees the quartets as 'extracts from a diary: notes of interim states of body and mind, my "inner world"'s reaction to events, signs and experiences - "world-images".'

At present, Peter Ruzicka is at work on a commission from the Dresden State Opera. His music theatre piece "Celan" will be premiered there in March 2001. Ruzicka has often cited the poetry of Paul Celan as the "defining non-musical inspiration" behind his work, and the String Quartets are also touched by Celan's influence, in particular the second quartet, "...fragment...".

Early in 1970, Ruzicka traveled to Paris to seek Celan's permission to set some of his poems. By this point, the composer noted, Celan had reduced his poetry, "withdrawing linguistic form, until nothing was left but traces, mere ciphers." Paul Celan, who died in April of 1970, was - in Ruzicka's view - almost literally writing himself out of existence. In tribute, Ruzicka offers music that often skirts the borderland of inaudibility. This idea of "disappearance" recurs throughout the string quartets, "in which traces of memories of the past come into conflict with real time." Personal reminiscences are cross-referenced with musical and literary ones. Liner note writer Thomas Schäfer finds echoes, stressed and implied, in the Ruzicka string quartets, of Webern, Mahler, Bartók, Ives, Beethoven, Ligeti, Wagner, di Lasso, Stravinsky, B.A. Zimmermann and Hans Pfitzner, as well as Huxley and Rimbaud and Celan and of course the authors directly quoted in the Fourth Quartet: Handke, von Hofmannsthal, Adorno, Dieter Schnebel, Ingeborg Bachmann, Cesare Pavese, and Wittgenstein - extracts from whose work are read by one of the most famous lieder singer of our century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, heard here in an unfamiliar role.