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.