Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) was born in La Spezia (Italy), studied composition in Rome with Giacinto
Sallustio, was taught by Egon Koehler about the composition system of
Scriabin, and studied before the Second World War with Walter Klein in Vienna, who was a pupil of
Schönberg. Scelsi developed his own style from 1956, in which he uses the 24-tone system (quarter-tone system)
in virtually all his works. From a total of five string quartets, there are three written in the
quarter-tone system: the second (1961), the third (1963) and the fourth string quartet (1964).
Scelsi occupies himself in his compositions with the depth of the sound (la
profondeur du son), what he calls the third dimension of sound, besides pitch and tone duration,
a dimension about which he observes that it cannot be described up to now.
With regard to performance technique of the string quartets Scelsi gives a comprehensive range of prescriptions for ways of playing: to use a particular string; to use certain fingers; alternation of long and rhythmic tones, tremoli, pizzicati, glissandi, sordini speciali, and a special kind of vibrato: the vibrato ampio, a vibrato which lies between a molto vibrato and a trill. This relates to another remarkable fact: the continuing presence with Scelsi of double- and multiple stops on the string instruments. The difference in point of view is that some composers see the string quartet as a four-voice sound source whereas Scelsi sees it as a sound source with 4 to 10 voices.
Sjoerd Brunia, 1993