Oxford Chamber Music Society audiences are made of strong stuff. The Holywell Music Room was packed to capacity for the Ligeti Quartet, even though the programme on offer was decidedly challenging — no light and airy Haydn here.

First up was American composer John Zorn’s Cat O’Nine Tails. The eponymous feline revealed its character immediately: all bared claws and teeth, this was no smooth-coated moggie. It leapt about, interrupting snatches of every musical genre from classical to hardcore punk — seemingly Zorn’s plan was to include as many styles as possible in the piece’s 15-minute running time. But sometimes it was mighty irritating to latch on to something you enjoyed, only to have it immediately ripped away again.

Oxfordshire-based Nicola Price’s String Quartet No 1 seemed slightly like a continuation of the Zorn, only at the outset the cat seemed to be moving at a slower, if equally discord-ant, pace. The work, here receiving its world premiere, is much concerned with musical structure, and how far you can push the boundaries of string quartet writing. The overall effect was unsettling, but the Ligetis — Mandhira de Saram and Patrick Dawkins (violins), Richard Jones (viola), Val Welbanks (cello) — played with immense zest and enthusiasm: formed only five years ago, the Quartet has already achieved an impressive level of rapport between the players.

The Ligetis’ edgy tone, very appropriate in the Zorn and Price works, was carried forward into the other two quartets played. Making light of the technical difficulties involved, the Quartet delivered a strong performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, emphasising its still cutting-edge, uncompromising power. Bartok’s String Quartet No 5 was also edgy, but here the Ligetis introduced a quieter, yearning sound as well. More of this side of their playing would have been welcome, but overall this recital very much reflected the current uneasy, uncertain state of the world.