By Lawrence A. Johnson
Just before he sat down to play Friday night at Mandel Hall, a string suddenly snapped on Irvine Arditti’s violin. “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” he observed, telling the audience “I’ll be right back” as he exited the stage for a quick repair. “That usually happens in the middle of the piece,” added violist Ralf Ehlers.
That bit of repartee by members of the Arditti Quartet provided an amusing prelude to the launch of the University of Chicago Presents’ season-long series spotlighting the music of György Ligeti. The brainchild of UC Presents’ executive director Amy Iwano, the ambitious project will offer seven concerts and ancillary university events through March, with participating artists including pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Third Coast Percussion, eighth blackbird and the Imani Winds.
It was an inspired idea to kick off the series with the Arditti Quartet. Founded in 1974 by Irvine Arditti and still led by the first violinist, the ensemble has been a contemporary music champion for over four decades, premiering hundreds of works from Abrahamsen and Adès to Stockhausen and Xenakis.