In 1961, the young Hungarian composer György Ligeti did a pretty amazing thing: he wrote a piece called Atmospheres, in which almost nothing happens, extremely slowly. The European avant-garde was still obsessed with quantifying musical parameters, with crystallizing pitch, duration, timbre, and register into rigid regions, radiating with speed and hardness – and then Ligeti cast out this massive orchestral goo, the enemy of all geometries, devoid of contours and as slow and gaseous as a trip through Saturn. A paean to all mysterious and intangible, Atmospheres initialized both a brilliant swerve from the music of its time, and a kind of life-journey for Ligeti's own incipient voice: a musical vision on the verge of disintegration, inventively trying to put itself back together, to re-integrate.
Ligeti’s works on this disc provide an excellent cross-section of the metamorphosis in his compositional technique over a period of 30 years. The Violin Concerto incorporates influences from Medieval and Renaissance music, from late Romantic music and various contemporary styles.
BIS present a chronological exploration of the music of György Ligeti. The exploration begins with a brief piece for solo piano written when he was studying in Budapest and ends with his final compositions, also for solo piano. The disc highlights a number of works which demonstrate the kaleidoscopic qualities of the composer – from the sense of humour displayed in the Six Bagatelles to the otherworldliness of Lux Aeterna (used by Stanley Kubrick in his film 2001 – A Space Odyssey), and the sheer mass of Volumina for organ.
György Sándor Ligeti was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as "one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century" and "one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time".
Natalie Clein, whose previous recording of the music of Ernest Bloch was described as ‘inspired’ by The Sunday Times, turns to his three suites for solo cello as part of a recital of works written in the aftermath of the Second World War. The sombre voice of the cello seems especially apposite in music of such deep seriousness, Ligeti’s short sonata providing an energetic and life-affirming finale.
The unifying idea of the concerto provides a way to get a handle on György Ligeti's experimental spirit, for a concerto here represents several fundamentally different things. The Cello Concerto of 1966, right at the height of Ligeti's exuberantly fearless adventures in 1960s Germany, might almost be called an anti-concerto, with the cello doing its best to hang on the edge of silence. Sample the very first movement, both for the precision of cellist Christian Poltéra's work at the low end of the dynamic spectrum and for the ideally clean engineering work by the BIS label, operating in a variety of Norwegian venues and mastering them, well, masterfully. The Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments and the Melodien are essentially concertos for orchestra, with distinctive roles for each of the instruments, while the five-movement Piano Concerto, completed in 1988, is a fine and technically demanding example of Ligeti's later pulse-based, polyrhythmic style. Throughout, Norway's BIT20 Ensemble, a group of flexible size, delivers superb Ligeti performances, with the requisite laser-like focus on individual details but not losing a certain liveliness and humor that underlie it all. A superior Ligeti album.
The ensemble London Winds, praised by BBC Music for its 'technical accomplishment, expressive commitment and warmth of timbre', presents in this recording great twentieth-century works for winds. It features music by Hindemith, Nielsen, and Janáček, and, from the next generation, Barber and Ligeti. Although not equally prolific (Kleine Kammermusik is Hindemith's single contribution to that genre while winds are generally more prominence in Nielsen's music), all these composers brought the wind repertoire back to prominence, after a quiet period of more than a century. The music is full of playfulness and European folk colours.