About Anthony BURGESS‘ works
Quartet n°1 “en hommage à Maurice Ravel” (Easter 1986 / Creation January 1987 Académie Rainier III de Monaco
Quartet n°2 (July 1988 / Creation January 1989 – Théâtre Princesse Grace de Monaco).
Quatuor n°3 (December 1989 / Creation August 1990 Théâtre Antique d’Arles / France).
Concerto Grosso for four guitars and orchestra (March 1987 / Creation February 1989-Cannes / France).
Quartet n°1 “en hommage à Maurice Ravel” :
The charm, the unaffectedness in the style and the limpidity of this work – signed with the name of a famous British novelist – would have delighted the one to whom he pays a precious homage.
Yves Hucher / Nice-Matin / 13 September 1987 / Principality of Monaco.
Quartet n°2 :
The Aïghetta quartet : Four virtuosi of very great worth (supported by Cziffra and Szeryng no less), heirs to the school of Ségovia, four individual personalities endowed with a fabulous collective spirit who declared war on the guitar’s natural frontiers. Fugue or polyphony? No problem, on the contrary, a cheerful and accomplished interpretation in the second Burgess’s quartet which never completely leaves the traditional sound space, but cautiously widen it; the fugue theme is not only to the novelist’s credit, but is also to the composer’s one. And what about the rythmic intricacy and the sophisticated voice leading in the condensed counterpoint in the Scherzo and the Rondo apart from the fact that it assumes the clockwork accuracy of the performers : Clockwork guitar? The Aïghetta quartet is definitely above this type of concern and never lacks sensibility.
Klaus Bennert / Süddeutsche Zeitung (Münchner Kulturberichte) / 29, 30 April, 1st May 1989 / Münich (Germany).
The quartet n°2 by Anthony Burgess is a highly demanding work for the instrumentalists who nevertheless master it brilliantly.
Peter Thomas AZ Tagblatt / 30 August 1990 / Linz (Austria).
The score of his Concerto Grosso pour quatre guitares is teeming with ideas and atmospheres. It is baroque, rich, sometimes too much, as these treasure chests in which you can find all you have loved: some Andalusian forms, Stravinskian contrasts, Straussian gleams from the orchestra, which sounds well andbuilds a first class casket for the lovable soloist instruments, chiselled strings in the expert hands of the exceptional guitarists of the Aïghetta Quartet. The pages the novelist kept them, have a subtile and complex writing, often engaging, which includes Elisabethan forms, modern drawings and lovely curves which evoke spring-like pictures. The whole work, sometimes moving and srange is often an exception to the conventions. The pleasure of the audience was continuous, from start to finish, and Anthony Burgess has been very happy with the enthousiastic reception given in Cannes both to the novelist and his composer’s work.
Aurore Busser / Nice-Matin / 28 February 1989 / Cannes (France)
Anthony Burgess was born in 1917 in Manchester. Often hold as a potential Nobel prize-winner, considered as one of the greatest contemporary novelist, the British writer had a first passion : music.
At age 12, attracted by Beethoven, Debussy and Wagner, he teached himself piano, then composition. Having earned a distinction in his music O-levels, but refused to the music department of his University, he turned towards philology, he will remind later to imagine the prehistoric rumblings in la guerre du feu, a film by Jean Jacques Annaud; then he moved off from a composer career to become “condemned to a life of writing”.
However, stuck ten hours a day to his old Remington, writing a thousand words every day, producing more than 50 works (novels, essays, biographies) among them Clockwork Orange filmed by Stanley Kubrick, he stood by his passion for music.
He composed numerous works, finding the physical act of putting dots on paper a cleansing and relaxing exercise essential to his own mental well-beeing : symphonic works, opera, concertos, ballets, string quartets and string quintets, piano works, etc…
However he longed to go back to his first loves, and declared in 1988 : “I reach the end of my literary career… I am an old man. I don’t want any more write novels. Born of musical parents, I composed three symphonies, an opera for the centenary of Joyce. My imagination is fully oral. Through music my life began, and it is through music that I am now aiming to achieve something.
He was established in Monaco since 1974, but he met the Aïghetta Quartet only in 1986, at the music academy, while he was looking for a guitar professor to his wife. Attracted by the “new and compelling” sound of the ensemble, he wrote a first quartet in a couple of days to “fill out a repertory which needs to be developed”; this, straight, without an erasure, with just a pencil and manuscript paper. This first work for the guitar quartet was also the first of his works to be recorded. “It is a straightforward work in orthodox sonata form which is intended to be a homage to Ravel. It flirts with the polytonality of Darius Milhaud but in other respects may be regarded as very British. The slow movement is a passacaglia inspired by the example of Henry Purcell, a master of the form”.
Fascinated by the sound possibilities of the ensemble and convinced that the sound of a guitar quartet can be compared to the sound of a little orchestra, he did not hesitate to arrange the ”Oberon Overture” by Carl Maria von Weber as a proof. This arrangement was performed in 1987 at the Fenice de Venise by the Aïghetta quartet on the occasion of the première of the new libretto by Burgess for this opera. Then he transcribes “Mercure” from the orchestral suite “Planets” by Gustav Holst. “In some ways it was appropriate : light, insubstantial, and in a sense guitar music. And very, very difficult to play”.
Stimulated by these experiences he composed two new quartets and a concerto Grosso for orchestra and four guitars (March 1987/ Creation February 1989-Cannes- Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur Orchestra, conducted by Philippe Bender) for the Aïghetta Quartet. In 1989 he declared on the Face to Face broadcast by Jeremy Isaacs on BBC network, that the creation of the concerto Grosso was one of the most joyful feeling he had during his career composer.
This collaboration was to come to an end in 1993 with the death of this famous person.