György Ligeti

Biography

Born: May 28, 1923; Discöszentmáton, Transylvania   Died: June 12, 2006; Vienna, Austria  
György Ligeti was one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century. He stood with Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen, and Cage as one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time. His early works show the influence of Bartók and Kodály, and like them, he studied folk music and made transcriptions from folk material. In Apparitions (1958-1959) and Atmosphčres (1961), he developed a Read more style forged from chromatic cluster chords that are devoid of conventional melody, pitch and rhythm, but instead grow into timbres and textures that yield new sonic possibilities. The composer referred to this method as "micropolyphony." In Aventures (1962), Ligeti devised a vocal technique in which the singers are required to make a full range of vocalizations, cries and nonsense noises to fashion a kind of imaginary, non-specific drama, but with rather specifically expressed emotions. Ligeti was almost alone among progressive composers from the latter twentieth century who have written popular and widely performed music.

Ligeti was born on May 28, 1923, in the Transylvanian town of Dicsöszentmárton, Romania and grew up in Kolozsvar, Klausenburg. At the age of 14, he began taking piano lessons and soon wrote his first composition, a waltz.

Because he was a Jew living under the Nazi-puppet regime in Hungary, Ligeti was forbidden university study and thus enrolled in the Kolozsvar Conservatory in 1941, and began studies with Ferenc Farkas, a Respighi pupil. Later, in Budapest, he also studied with pianist-composer Pál Kadosa.

In January 1944, Ligeti was arrested and sent to a labor camp where he remained imprisoned until 1945. Other family members were sent to Auschwitz, where only his mother survived. Ligeti graduated from the Budapest Academy of Music in 1949 and began an extended period of study of folk music.

In the years of 1950-1956, he served as a professor at the Budapest Academy. His music was largely unadventurous during this period, owing to restrictions by the Hungarian Communist regime. Ligeti and his wife fled their homeland during the Revolution in 1956, settling in Vienna. Ligeti began studying and composing at the Cologne-based Electronic Music Studio from 1957 to 1959, producing the influential Artikulation (1958), one of his first electronic works.

Other important progressive works followed, such as the orchestral composition, Apparitions (1958-1959) and Atmosphčres (1961). In 1959, Ligeti began serving as visiting professor at the Academy of Music in Stockholm and also started teaching courses at Darmstadt.

His choral work Requiem (1963-1965) was another success, as were Ramifications (1968-1969), for string orchestra or 12 solo strings, and Clocks and Clouds (1972-1973). In 1972, Ligeti became Composer in Residence at Stanford University and the following year took on a professorship at the Hamburg Academy of Music. Ligeti composed his opera Le Grand Macabre in the period 1975-1977, but revised it in the 1990s, with the final version completed in 1997. It has become one of his most popular large works.

In 1982, the composer's mother died. That same year saw a return of Ligeti's health after a period of five years' sickness. In the 1980s the composer forswore further composition in the realm of electronic music. Ligeti retired from his post as professor of composition at the Hamburg Music Academy in 1989. In the 1990s, he spent much time on the aforementioned second version of Le Grand Macabre.

Ligeti received his share of awards and prizes, including the 1986 Grawemeyer Prize and the 1996 Music Prize of the International Music Council. Read less
Ligeti: Violin Concerto;  Norgĺrd: Helle Nacht / Ĺstrand
Release Date: 08/22/2000   Label: Chandos  
Catalog: 9830   Number of Discs: 1
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Gyorgy Ligeti: Metamorphoses Nocturnes
Release Date: 01/28/2014   Label: Aeon  
Catalog: 1332   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Bagatelles (6) for Wind Quintet

 

About This Work
These six pieces were originally part of a collection of 12 bagatelles composed for piano between 1951 and 1953. In 1953, Ligeti transcribed six of the bagatelles for a wind quintet made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. With the Read more exception of the second and fifth bagatelles, these are quick, spirited little pieces. They reflect Ligeti's economical approach to composition, as a minimum number of notes are used to maximum effect. The bagatelles are often texturally sparse, with most of the notes either played staccato or strongly accented to create cool but insistent music. The dynamics change frequently, sometimes several times in each bar, and the instruments are often called on to play muted, adding different colors to each piece. Ligeti's bagatelles employ some harsh dissonances and complex ideas; however, they are also very moving and accessible little chamber pieces that explore both the expressive and the purely musical potential of a limited amount of material.

These pieces are very short: most are under two minutes in duration, and none are over three. The first bagatelle, Allegro con spirito, is comprised of only four pitches yet is amazingly varied in expression and is motivically inventive. The second bagatelle is a passionate, anguished Lamentoso. The third is quick, but with longer cantabile melodies juxtaposed with quiet staccato figures. Bagatelle number four is exuberant and strongly accented, while number five, dedicated to the memory of Béla Bartók, begins as a spare adagio, but soon becomes more vivacious as dotted rhythmic figures are added. The final bagatelle is like a wild, frenetic race, and the penultimate measures are marked "as though insane"; but the piece ultimately ends with a soft, muted horn solo. Read less

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