For some time, the series of landmarks I've been compiling for this blog (see the list of links in the sidebar) has been hung up over a single piece, Luigi Nono's 1980 string quartet, Fragmente-Stille, An Diotima. As a marker for the European post-War avant-garde's final turn away from a dertain ideological and technical rigidity, it clearly has some importance and there are features in the music — the exploration of the lower threshold of audibility, the glacial tempi, Nono's use of a scale of fermati, the fragmentary continuity, and the incorporation of poetic-philosophical texts (by Hölderlin) into the score, as messages to the players — which are extremely attractive. However, I am not able to hold back a persistent sense of doubt about the piece as a whole. Some of this doubt is because these features are romantic in character, a spirit not quite my own, and more of this doubt is of a technical nature, as the facile application of the slow and the low and the use of the arbitrary and fragmentary to suggest something of cryptic significance can lead to an impression of a profundity, when none is really there. At times, Nono's score has had me convinced, but at other auditions, more aware of my gullibility, doubt exceeds any conviction.
A difficult position to have with regard to a work by a composer whose music was so intimately tied to (one or another form of) belief.