Nemtsov: Arditti Quartet presents Or bahir

Nemtsov: Arditti Quartet presents Or bahir

The Arditti Quartet celebrates 50 years with a world premiere by Sarah Nemtsov at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.

The anniversary program included works from ‘classics’ such as Xenakis and Lachenmann, from Neuwirth, Saunders, and Sarah Nemtsov’s new work Or bahir – the only world premiere and commission (from the Arditti Quartet, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and Wien modern, sponsored by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation).

The Arditti Quartet, made up of violinists Irvine Arditti and Ashot Sargsyan, violist Ralf Ehlers, and Lucas Fels on cello, mastered the work’s challenges brilliantly, and were delighted with both the work and a positive reception from the audience.

Next up for Nemtsov is the world premiere of her (chamber) ensemble trilogy MA’ALOT by Ensemble Musikfabrik at Cologne's WDR Funkhaus on 29 June.


After the world premiere in Hamburg, the Arditti Quartet presents Or bahir in three further performances during its anniversary tour: musica viva (Munich, 29 September), Philharmonie de Paris (17 October), and Wien Modern (2 November).

World premiere of Or bahir

About Or bahir

Or bahir (bright light) is dedicated to Arditti quartet in admiration and with gratitude. (I had to forget about what a string quartet “means” and at the same time I was of course overly aware of the history of the string quartet, all the repertoire and also Arditti’s history and repertoire, what a task). The title Or bahir refers to the 100 year old book by Gerschom Scholem – his edition of a book from the early Kabbalah time and spirit - "Das Buch Bahir - Ein Schriftdenkmal aus der Frühzeit der Kabbala" - Neuausgabe von Dr. Gerhard (Gerschom) Scholem, Leipzig 1923. Bright light has many meanings here and some contradictory (as life is contradictory). Very fascinating.

“Nun aber sieht man nicht das Licht, leuchtet es in den Himmeln”
“Er macht Finsternis zu seiner Hülle”
“Gewölk und Nebel sind um ihn”
“Auch Finsternis ist vor dir nicht finster, und Nacht strahlt wie der Tag, Finsternis wie Licht”

I tried to find sounds that are both dark and inhabit light, I used detuning of several strings for a certain harmonic field and sphere. I looked for glowing harmonies, for foggy textures and strange paths and contrasts. It was an intense work.

[I wrote the last pages of the quartet while the world broke. (Once more.) Mourning with my friends, family, people, mourning with all innocent, humans, all this loss and pain, mourning for all the children. I look at my child's eyes. This is the brightest light I know. Our children deserve that we offer them a better place.]
—Sarah Nemtsov

Score of Or bahir

Photos: Daniel Dittus