György Ligeti continues to be prolific, and this selection has the first book of the growing collection of piano Études (1985). Erika Haase, who worked on the recording with the composer, retraces his compositional footsteps with the early Capriccios (1947) and Invention (1948) which show him distancing himself gradually from Bartok. The 11 ricercars (1951-53), the last a Homage to Frescobaldi, go beyond what Hungarian orthodoxy would allow in the early 1950s and No. 10, in its wind quintet arrangement, had too many minor seconds for inclusion in a concert - in 1956 Ligeti left his native country…
According to some, Ligeti is about as post-modern as you can get. However, Ligeti's composition is more than just atonal, postmodern music, as demonstrated on this disc the amazingly effective use of space and time, and advanced virtuosity at the absolute service of the composer's artistic vision. In his own words: "the ironic theatricalizing of the past is quite foreign to me." Written between 1985 and 1992, the Piano Concerto and Violin Concerto together are supposed to demonstrate the full expressive range of his later works. The Piano Concerto is a whirlwind of rhythmically driven fantasies, created by precise, almost mechanical, colliding cross-rhythms, and twisted, sprightly melodies. The Violin Concerto is just as quirky and jarring, but wilder and more impassioned, less 'mechanical,' more vigorous, and ultimately the highlight of the disc.
This Ligeti entry in the Deutsch Grammophon (DG) 20th Century Classics series was one of the first Ligeti CDs. It remains a fine single-disc introduction to Ligeti, one of the greatest of late 20th century composers. These works are all from Ligeti's 1960s prime when he was exploring micropolyphony. If you never heard anything else, you would have a good basic sense of what Ligeti's contribution was to the late 20th century avant-garde. Included are "Lux Aeterna," the eerie choral work from 1962, made famous for its inclusion in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and the String Quartet No. 2 from 1968, performed by the LaSalle Quartet. I think the Arditti Quartet surpassed the LaSalles with their Sony recording found in the "Ligeti Edition, Vol. 1," but this version is superb in its own right. The other three pieces are performed by the Ensemble InterContemporain, led by Pierre Boulez – "Ramifications," (1968-1969) "Chamber Concerto" (1970-1971) and the very strange vocal "Aventures" (1962-1965).