Youthful work way ahead of its time

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At the age of just 17 Julian Anderson composed a spectral string quartet that was way ahead of its time. This bold, demanding music required many new extended techniques and at the time it was deemed unplayable. But that was 30 years ago and the situation today is vastly different; groups such as the Jack Quartet have more than risen to the challenge and music such as this has become their main stay. The Jacks proved their mastery of the genre at the London premiere of Anderson’s String Quartet No. 1 ‘Light Music’ (7 mins) with playing that blazed with energy and lightening quick changes of colour. The concert formed part of Anderson’s ongoing position as composer in residence at the Wigmore Hall and the hall will play host to the world premiere of Anderson’s second string quartet this May with the Arditti Quartet.




‘glinting timbres, filtering sound like light through a prism’

‘Julian Anderson wrote his String Quartet No. 1, “Light Music”, in 1984-5, when he was 17. It was deemed unplayable at the time, but its glinting timbres, filtering sound like light through a prism, sounded very effective here.’

Financial Times (Richard Fairman), 26 January 2014


‘an extraordinary piece’

‘The first half closed with Julian Anderson’s String Quartet no. 1, subtitled “Light Music”… It is an early example of British spectral music, and uses a scale of steps to grade from order to disorder and back again, in both rhythm and pitch.It is an extraordinary piece… The quartet brought a beautiful focus to their performance, which at times sounded as it was about to fall off the edge of a precipice before drawing back. During other moments the sound had an almost electrical quality to it as it devolved into chaos and back again.’

Bachtrack (Penny Homer), 24 January 2014


‘the piece more than justifies its belated inclusion in Anderson’s official catalogue’

‘Especial interest was attached to the First String Quartet (1985) by the then late-teenage Julian Anderson which had its premiere just six months ago. This nine-minute exploration of the ‘‘colour of sound’’ (to quote the composer) has all four instruments playing, more or less continuously, in a densely translucent and always-evolving texture whose recourse to the overtones of the harmonic spectrum and non-standard tunings audibly prefigure the composer’s future concerns. Complex though never abstruse, the piece more than justifies its belated inclusion in Anderson’s official catalogue and should provide an arresting foil to its successor which is to receive its premiere at this venue (by the Arditti Quartet) in four months’ time… It was gratifying, too, that the near-capacity audience was young in age as well as in spirit: whoever claims that radical new music has no future in the UK needs to think again.’

Classical Source (Richard Whitehouse), 24 January 2014


’there's Grisey, Murail and Dufourt in the quartet's sound world’

‘Anderson had designed the programme to showcase the JACK'S astonishingly precise collective intonation… Anderson had included one of his own pieces – his first string quartet, Light Music, the earliest piece he acknowledges. He composed it when he was 17 and under the spell of spectral music; there's Grisey, Murail and Dufourt in the quartet's sound world of disintegrating non-vibrato chords, and a lot of GiacintoScelsi, too.’

The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 26 January 2014