Coult’s new work for the Arditti Quartet was premiered as part of the opening concerts of the newly refurbished Purcell Room at London’s Southbank Centre in May 2018. Commissioned by the Hepner Foundation in memory of Leo Hepner, the 12-minute work is characterised by the unusual tunings of half of the instruments – the 2nd violin has all its strings tuned down a semitone, and the viola has all its strings tuned down a tone.
This tuning greatly expands the number of different pitches available to be played as open strings – unlike the conventional tuning of a quartet, this combination contains 16 unique strings – and all of the piece’s five movements are in some sense explorations of the distinctive timbre of open strings. It’s an ingenious work, perhaps Coult’s most compellingly original yet, taking in a fantastically wide range of emotions with his usual mixture of clarity and strangeness.
‘In his first (of many, let’s hope) string quartets, Coult made extensive use of open strings, creating new aural possibilities with fascinating results.’
The Observer (Fiona Maddocks), 3 June 2018