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Birtwistle: Complete String Quartets [CD]

Arditti String Quartet Audio CD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 14.25 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Frequently Bought Together

Birtwistle: Complete String Quartets + Birtwistle: Night's Black Bird / The Shadow of Night / The Cry of Anubis + Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem
Price For All Three: 39.84

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Product details

  • Performer: Arditti Quartet
  • Composer: Harrison Birtwistle
  • Audio CD (21 May 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Aeon
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,381 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Tree of Strings29:01Album Only
Listen  2. 9 Movements: I. Fantasia I 3:350.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. 9 Movements: II. Frieze I 3:250.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. 9 Movements: III. Fantasia II 2:580.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. 9 Movements: IV. Fantasia III 1:540.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. 9 Movements: V. Frieze II 3:090.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. 9 Movements: VI. Fantasia IV 3:110.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. 9 Movements: VII. Frieze III 4:200.59  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. 9 Movements: VIII. Fantasia V 3:340.59  Buy MP3 
Listen10. 9 Movements: IX. Todesfuge - Frieze IV 4:200.59  Buy MP3 

Product Description


These two works, completed in 1996 and 2007, are Harrison Birtwistle's only pieces for string quartet to date. The earlier Nine Movements began as one element in the meditations on Paul Celan, Pulse Shadows, an interlocking sequence of vocal and instrumental pieces built around Celan's poetry. However, Birtwistle always intended that the cycle could be split into its component parts and the quartet movements a sequence of fantasias and friezes, the last entitled Todesfuge, echoing one of Celan's most famous poems performed separately as they are here. The Tree of Strings has poetic connections, too, for the title is taken from a poem in Gaelic by Sorley MacLean, who was born on the island of Raasay, where the composer himself lived in the 1980s. Birtwistle's half-hour piece is an evocation of that island and its history, a place in which musical performance was once prohibited by religious decree, and which lost most of its population to the Highland clearances in the mid 19th century. It's one of the most powerful of his recent works, alternating moments of total stillness with passages of great athleticism and rhythmic energy, or long, continuously evolving melodic lines. It carries the sense of Raasay's desolation into the music, too, as towards the end of the work the four players gradually move farther apart on the platform until finally they exit the stage altogether, leaving the cellist to bring the piece to its stuttering close alone. Both works were composed for the Arditti Quartet who have recorded the Nine Movements before, as part of a Teldec disc of the complete Pulse Shadows; their performances here are even more remarkable for their clarity, precision and grasp of the music's intricate structure. --Andrew Clements - The Guardian (5 star review)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic 28 July 2012
By droflim
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The sound quality on this disc is stunning as is the Arditti's playing. The clarity, precision and and sheer presence make this unforgettable. It will take longer for the music itself to reveal itself (to me anyway) but as it is, a few months into listening, it has a magnetic effect - it absorbs your whole attention. Both works were composed for the Arditti Quartet and it is moot perhaps as to whether the composer's experience or the increasing mastery of the Quartet spur the other to greater achievement. Superb.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars complex, challenging, but rewarding 7 Jan 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Well worth investigating if you don't expect the listener to get a full reward without making an effort. As a young man I found Birtwistle's music too perplexing, but I've come to realise he is one of England's greatest composers, and find much of his music immensely moving. But this is probably not where I would recommend the uncommitted to start. (Try perhaps "Night's Black Bird" on NMC or the wonderful 2CD compendium on Decca, including Secret Theatre & Endless Parade.)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A successor to Stravinsky's quartet writings? 29 Nov 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Harrison Birtwistle is definitely an interesting case. Much of what he has composed is rather sharp on the ear. Many years back I was impressed by the uncompromising pungency of Verses and Refrains - not the best material to listen to when relaxing and lounging by the pool on holiday, but nonetheless a voice and a vision. I went to the Glyndebourne staging of The Last Supper, and to one of the first performances of The Minotaur. Both seemed to me to be failures - the Last Supper absolutely lacked any forward dramatic momentum, while the Minotaur seemed a bit like its lead part - a buzz of mental action locked in a cage with sharp edges. On both occasions I found I was aching for it all to end.

Then more recently I bought CD's, this one here of the Arditti playing his string quartet music and the fine NMC disc of Night's Black Bird, Shadow of Night and Cry of Anubis. One always has to be a little wary because the Arditti could make the random scratchings of a monkey sound authentic and impressive, but actually wow here is Birtwistle finally doing what everyone else seems to have ignored for the past eighty years, and that's to step out to follow up where Stravinsky's path might lead. He is also drawing from Carter and Nancarrow which I'm glad to hear - we need development in music that has better intermeshing. The Tree of Strings quartet undoubtedly is positive music despite the slightly strange tale about Raasay that accompanies it. In the case of Cry of Anubis, it is no surprise that Birtwistle struggles to coax a rewarding sound out of the tuba as a solo instrument (why try?), but the other two works on the NMC disc have striking presences and I have listened to them quite a few times with pleasure.

So while for me Birtwistle is a pretty mixed bag, I certainly enjoyed the quartets here. They are beautifully played and recorded.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important issue 18 Nov 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
An earlier performance of the Tree of Strings (the premiere), which is about - among other things - the absence of music under social duress, was issued through the Wittener Musiktage-WDR link in 2008, and after finding a copy auctioned through eBay at a price I couldn't match, I was very kindly sold one at a reasonable price by a source close to the original. Aeon's recording date is 2010, so this is a second recording by the Arditti within two years. I knew it through the UK performance broadcast on Radio 3, which was a rivetting experience. Living in the Highlands myself at the time of its origin, occasionally hearing Sorley Maclean's own readings, and following the attempts of that wee cowring timorous beastie, the then Highland and Islands Development Board, to deal with the scandal of the neglect of Birtwistle's starting point, the Isle of Raasay, then in the hands of its last (hopefully) speculative private part-owner (one Dr Green in leafy Sussex), a final stage of over a century and a half of social duress, Birtwistle's subtext, or one of them, is all too clear to me. Though the note-writer doesn't mention it, a previous nineteenth century former slaveowning laird of the island, George Rainy, actually forbade marriage there. Birtwistle's work is perhaps not the equal in simple eloquence of Maclean's "Hallaig", but in all other respects it's a fitting counterpart to it - and by an incomer, too. It's worth all the effort it takes to get to know it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars get it now..... 27 Dec 2012
By M. pettengell - Published on
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
if you know this'll want this little collection. if you don't, it is worth taking a chance on one of the names of the 'now'. i did and am very pleased with it. play it on
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