The Arditti Quartet, regarded by most as the best contemporary music quartet in the world, returns to Israel for concerts at the Eilat International Chamber Music Festival on Thursday and next Friday, as well as at the tiny Ha-Teiva Hall in Jaffa on Wednesday. In Eilat, their program will be more traditional, with pieces by Beethoven, Ravel, Janacek, with a piece by contempoary French composer Pascal Dusapin representing the present-day, while in Jaffa the ensemble will showcase its contemporary repertoire, playing quartets by two major living German composers Wolfgant Rihm and Helmut Lachenmann, with Beethoven's Grosse Fuge contributing the classical connection. The quartet has already played in Israel several times, while Irwin Arditti himself appeared with the Jerusalem symphony as soloist. Several hundred string quartets and other chamber works have been written for the ensemble since it was established by first violinist Irvine Arditti in 1974 by first-rank composers such as Cage, Gubaidulina, Kurtag, Lachenmann, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Reynolds, Rihm, Stockhausen and Xenakis - and even Israelis, such as Dan Yuhas. The Quartet has recorded more than 150 discs. Speaking from his London home, Arditti says it is "the vast arena of different challenges" which attracts both him and the audience to contemporary music. "It is difficult to categorize this music: some is more difficult to listen and other is more communicative. But by all means, the world of contemporary music has grown immensely as compared to the years in which we first started to play it." Arditti who has always been worked in league with composers so as to understand how they want their music to be played describes this cooperation as a "collaborative effort between our knowledge and their desire." The violinist explains that experienced composers on the whole know what they want, and while some are very strict about their music's rendition, others rely on the performers. "We've been working with both Rihm and Lachenmann for so many years that we have become close friends and enjoy full understanding." Asked about the audience, Arditti, who avoids generalizations, says that although Germany has probably more venues for this kind of music, they perform all over the world, "in any place where they have a tradition for listening contemporary music." Their visit here was sponsored by the Goethe Institute. The Arditti Quartet performs February 27 at HaTeiva in Jaffa (03-6822403) and in Eilat February 28 and 29.