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
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.
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