Peter Vigh's First String Quartet has a long and special history. In addition to being a composer, Vigh is also a saxophonist and co-founder of the Berlage Saxophone Quartet. In 2015 he studied with the famous Artemis Quartett in Berlin, one of the world's leading string quartets. Artemis organized a composition competition at the time and Vigh, who his teachers knew well, decided to join - anonymously.
During that period, Artemis' violist Friedemann Weigle ended his own life. The impact was enormous. The composition contest understandably was put on the back burner, although Vigh eventually made it to the final round. The composition material remained – until he returned to it with the Dudok Quartet a year later. But even though the basic material was the same, Vigh found that he had to reconceptualize the piece anew.
Disaster struck again when Vigh's father fell ill in May of that year and died a short time later. The last movement, '(Dis)appearing II', is dedicated to him. Vigh describes it as a “stripped-down chorale”: “warm triads that appear and reappear disappear into a mist of clusters”. Although that material already existed, it is closely connected with the warmth I experienced in that time. All his extra layers fell away, and my father became very 'visible' in his last period.”
Thus Vigh’s First String Quartet was inevitably linked with death. The penultimate movement, the Trauerandante (Mourning Andante) – “which was always titled ‘Trauerandante’” - is dedicated to Friedemann Weigle. Vigh never considered putting work aside: “In that respect, I have a rewarding profession as a musician, you can put a lot of your own experiences and emotions into it.”
The quartet consists of seven contrasting movements, each with its own character, though there are also clear relationships. The first and last movements are "wide vanishing points”. Movements 2 and 5 are wild, even aggressive pieces: in the 2nd, the quartet is constantly at each other's throats, and the 5th is a violent outburst of frustration. Movement 3 unfolds as “a waltz in low gravity”, and movement 4 is the quiet center of the work, which Vigh imagines as “a flight through the night”: there is a motoric accompaniment, and high above that the melody floats, gradually descending from the first violin to the cello.