By Per F. Broman
7 November 1997 - György Ligeti makes some surprising
statements concerning his first string quartet in the liner notes to
Volume 1 of Sony's planned Complete Edition of Ligeti's work.
composition was intended only for my bottom drawer, since a public
performance was out of the question. Life in Hungary at that time was
in the iron grip of the communist dictatorship, the country completely
cut off from all information from abroad: outside contacts and foreign
travel were impossible, Western radio broadcasts were jammed, and
scores and books could neither be sent nor received.
What kind of piece could so have violated "Socialist Realism?
Ligeti's first string quartet, Métamorphoses nocturnes,
is a wonderful, often ecstatically playful piece in the Bartókian
tradition with its roots in Hungarian folk music. Ligeti reminds us
that, for many artists, "to work for one's bottom drawer was
regarded as an honor". Fifteen years later we encounter a
completely different Ligeti: he has left Hungary and been in contact
with the Central European avant-garde. Timbre now plays an important
role in his modernistic second string quartet which sounds almost like
electronic music and benefits enormously from being heard on CD rather
Volume 3 of Sony's remarkable Ligeti Edition
features the piano études which occupy a significant place in
the composer's development. In 1982, Ligeti's musical style was
radically transformed when one of his students introduced him to music
from Central Africa, an influence readily evident in the subsequent
Fifteen Etudes for piano. The most fascinating aspect of
African music for
Ligeti is the way in which complex polyrhythmic structures can be
coordinated with the help of a very quick basic pulse (up to 600 beats
per minute). The composer considers this influence as important for
his development as Debussy's encounter with gamelan music in 1889.
Rapid rhythmic figures are apparent in several études and are
set against different types of melodies: in the first étude (Désordre),
two intense disconnected melodies gradually grow apart; in the fourth
(Fanfares), trumpet-like fragments are superimposed over
ostinato scale patterns; in the sixth (Automne ŕ Varsovie),
the fast pulse is subdivided so that complicated polyrhythms emerge.
Klassiknet has already reviewed Fredrik
Ullén's recording of the Etudes on Bis: Ullen is
the more elegant while Aimard is more tempestuous.
discusses his relationship to the piano in the liner notes to Volume
3, stating that the Fifteen Etudes are the result of his own
inability to play the piano well.
trouble with perspective. The apples and pears in his still-lifes seem
about to roll away. In his rather clumsy depictions of reality the
folds of the tablecloth are made of rigid plaster. But what a wonder Cézanne
accomplished with his harmonies of color, with the emotionally charged
geometry, with his curves, volumes, and weight displacements! That's
what I would like to achieve: the transformation of inadequacy into
Volume 4 is devoted to vocal works, six of which are first
recordings: Nonsense Madrigals (1988-93), Mysteries of the
Macabre (an arrangement of material from Ligeti's opera Le
Grand Macabre, 1974-77), Der Sommer (1989), Három
Weöres-dal (1946-47), Ot Arany-dal (1952), and Négy
lakodalmitánc (1950). The disc is completed with the
well-known Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures
(1962-65). Once again, the many facets of Ligeti's style are featured:
his playfulness in Cuckoo in the Pear Tree from the Nonsense
Madrigals, expressionism in Aventures and Nouvelles
Aventures, his romantic lyricism in A menyasszony szép
virág from Négy lakodalmitánc.
György Ligeti Edition
String Quartets and Duets
Arditti String Quartet.
Etudes for piano, Musica ricercata Pierre-Laurent
Vocal Works, Madrigals,
Mysteries, Aventures, Songs The King's Singers Philharmonia Orchestra
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Sony Classical SK
62306, SK 62308, SK 62311
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