David Philip Hefti [1975 *]

con fuoco

string quartet no. 4


'con fuoco' (String Quartet No. 4) was written in 2011 for the Leipzig String Quartet to a commission from the Menuhin Festival Gstaad and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. The Leipzig String Quartet, to whom the work is also dedicated, gave the world premičre on 14 August 2011 at the Menuhin Festival Gstaad.

My Fourth String Quartet was inspired by a widely used expression mark: con fuoco. This one-movement work endeavours to derive as many different aspects as possible from this expression and to trace them in the form of different energy paths. The destructive element of fire ('fuoco') here plays a subordinate role. Instead, subtle shadings of sound and noise point to an internalization of the music – to an 'inner fire'. However, the work can also be listened to as if it were programme music...

D. P. H.


Berner Zeitung, 17th August 2011

Menuhin Festival: A World Premičre

Besides works by Mahler, Mendelssohn and Brahms, [the Leipzig String Quartet] also played David Philip Hefti's String Quartet No. 4. This work, commissioned by the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad and here given its world premičre, bears the title 'con fuoco'. Hefti thereby took up the Festival's motto of 'fire and sun', and in this one-movement work he lets the fire crackle and blaze. With this image before our mind's eye, it was easy for the audience to empathize with these unfamiliar, contemporary sounds and to comprehend Hefti's wealth of ideas.

Lotte Brenner



Das Orchester, Issue October 2012:

David Philip Hefti:

Mobile/con fuoco
String quartets Nos. 3 und 4


What composer would give his interpreters complete freedom to choose the order of the individual movements when performing his work? What at first sounds highly daring is precisely the risk that David Philip Hefti takes in his Third String Quartet. This quartet was written last year to be performed in between the seven sections of the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms – though in that case, the order of the movements was fixed. This ‘compulsion’ was removed by the composer for a separate performance of his string quartet, entitled Mobile – indeed, in a personal preface he encourages his interpreters to alter the order of its movements and even on occasion of their constituent sections as they see fit. Just as Hefti places the large-scale aspects of his work at the mercy of chance or the moods of his musicians, some of the six movements themselves also take up the principle of aleatory.

Does this mean that the two violins, viola and cello are given all manner of freedom? Yes and no! Because in matters of sound and structure, David Philip Hefti is as precise as is his wont, and contrasts the impulse to musical freedom with well-thought-through structures. The composer writes in his commentary that much of what refers to the work’s starting point – the Requiem by Brahms – is neither perceptible nor audible. And yet the six movements of this Mobile are far more than a reflection of the atmosphere of this great choral work. In addition, high technical demands are made of the performers that are manifest above all in the organization of the work’s highly contrasting sound world.

The sister work to this quartet, con fuoco (‘with fire’), also written in 2011 for the Leipzig String Quartet, is organized quite differently. It ‘plays with fire’, however, only inasmuch as this refers to the inner fire of the music. In this one-movement work, too, Hefti shows himself to be a composer who works in a deeply circumspect manner, a demanding organizer of sounding pictures that might be abstract but nevertheless rich in contour and depth of focus.

The technical demands made of the string players are as great in the Fourth Quartet as they are in the Third, for David Philip Hefti’s musical language also derives its life in particular from the fact that he wishes his performers to employ a broad spectrum of instrumental possibilities. A detailed introduction to the sound effects necessary and a highly precise notation signify his intent to fix his musical structures clearly and unmistakeably – and perhaps also to rein in any unnecessarily destructive musical flames in this con fuoco movement.

Freedom for the performers, by all means – but in the end, David Philip Hefti keeps a tight rein on all aspects of his sound design.

Daniel Knödler