Mp3 Blog #4: Gyorgy Ligeti

György Sándor Ligeti:
Lontano (1967)
For orchestra

Continuum (1968)
For harpsichord

Chamber Concerto; III. Movimento preciso e meccanico (1969-1970)
For 13 instrumentalists

Horn Trio; IV. Lamento – Adagio (1982)
For horn, piano, and violin

Violin Concerto; I. Vivacissimo luminoso (1992)
For violin and orchestra

Violin Concerto; II. Aria, Hoquetus, Choral. Andante con moto (1992)
For violin and orchestra

Etude # VI: Automne à Varsovie (1985)
For piano

Etude # XIII: L’escalier du diable (1985)
For piano

Hamburg Concerto; V. Spectra (1998-99 rev. 2003)
For solo Horn and chamber orchestra with four obligatto horns

My first tribute to Ligeti was posted in a hurry and regrettably brief. Since Ligeti has played such a pivotal role in my compositional thought, I’ve decided to make up for my previous brevity with this post. After a lot of listening I’ve chosen a collection of mp3s that, in my humble opinion, make one kick ass Ligeti mix cd. Of course, if you don’t have own any recordings of Ligeti I recommend running out and buying The Ligeti Project I (which I instantly bought a second time after losing my first copy) and The Ligeti Edition 3: Works for Piano. If, on the other hand, you have already some Ligeti’s music go out and buy whatever else you can find because most of he wrote is worth hearing repeatedly.

The hardest part in arranging my tribute was deciding what to leave out. I desperately wanted to include Three Pieces for Two Pianos, the Piano Concerto, Book One of the Piano Etudes, Volumina for organ, the five octave Eb in the Chamber’s Concerto’s first movement, and – had I been able to find it – Glissandi. Regrettably, I also left out a few selections that just seemed too obvious like Lux Aeterna and the Requiem.

With three exceptions, I’ve decided to focus mostly on Ligeti’s late period. Although his middle period (late 50’s through mid 70’s) seems to the best known, thanks mostly to Kubrick’s fine musical taste, I really think that Ligeti’s best works come from the later period when rhythm became more of a central parameter.

Lontano (available on The Ligeti Project II) is my favorite orchestral work by Ligeti. I am always struck by the massive orchestral force and harmonic beauty in this piece. Continuum (available on The Ligeti Edition 5) is one of the best contemporary harpsichord works and one of the neglected little gems in Ligeti’s catalogue. The third movement of the Chamber Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project I ) echoes his Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes, signals a rhythmic focus that would predominate Ligeti’s later period, and is just one of the best damn three and a half minutes of music there is.

Ligeti’s Horn Trio (available on The Ligeti Edition 7) uses the same instrumentation as Brahm’s Horn Trio and is often considered the first piece in Ligeti’s late period. The melodic invention, rhythmic focus, and an almost romantic drama probably made this work seem strange to the Hamburg audience that was at the work’s premiere. Although this work sounds little like Ligeti ‘s earlier works, what distinguishes it has proven itself over time and will remain as a cornerstone of his ever-fruitful ouevre

Some other masterpieces from Ligeti’s late period are the Violin Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project III) and the Piano Etudes (available on The Ligeti Edition 3). The Piano Etudes are, in my humble opinion, the best piano works written in the last fifty year and the best collection of piano etudes since Chopin’s.

The last selection is taken from Ligeti’s wryly profound Hamburg Concerto (available on The Ligeti Project IV). The four obligatto horns recall the Epilogue in Grisey’s L’espace Acoustique and this movement’s final chord is truly an acoustic phenomena to behold.

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