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Composer Series - Lukas Ligeti: Mystery System

Release Date: 06/29/2004 
Label:  Tzadik   Catalog #: 7099   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Lukas Ligeti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadinda Percussion EnsembleEthel
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 53 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is Lukas Ligeti (b. 1965), and yes, he is the son of the composer György. I say that up front, because there’s no way to get around it, but I am sure this Ligeti is sick of hearing it mentioned. Thus, until near the end of this review, I’ll try to leave this fact and the inevitable comparisons aside.

This collection shows a young musician with enormous imagination and energy. Trained in performance as a percussionist and in computer music at Stanford, Ligeti has a diverse and cosmopolitan upbringing. Since 1998, he’s been in New York City, and is well known among the experimentalist and improvising community downtown. His music has the following virtues: a commitment to information saturation and counterpoint; an
Read more evocation of folk music that is never facile or pandering; a compelling rhythmic sense; an ease and fluency with musical technology. Two works on this program are brief: Pattern Transformation (1988) is one of the composer’s first pieces, and overlays polytempic rhythmic patterns for mallet percussion in a way reminiscent of Reich. New York to Neptune (1998) for string quartet and drum machine (here performed by multitracking two musicians) is a two-minute essay in amiable chaos. Moving Houses (1996/2003) for string quartet moves into a more ambitious realm. It is a continuous suite of folk melody, morphing from one tune and tempo to another, often layered with other strands in yet other time-worlds. The effect is a dreamlike stream, a sort of super-heterophony (I’m reminded a little of the music of the still not-well-enough-known Polish composer Zygmunt Krauze). Independence (2002) is a knockout. This is a 17-minute work for percussion quartet, and it moves from an initial unpitched world to an increasingly ecstatic sound suggestive of Caribbean steel pan music. The grooves just keep coming here, consistently fresh, inventive, surprising. The same goes, perhaps even more so, for Delta Space (2002), written for the virtuoso pianist Kathleen Supové. She plays both a Disklavier (a digital piano with real-time interactive aspects controlled by computer) and a sampling keyboard. The result is like a musical rollercoaster, a stream-of-consciousness flow: one pattern suggests another, leading to an ever-broader sonic palette. The feel here is African; it’s as though Supové is playing the world’s largest, most surreal kora.

The upshot is that Ligeti doesn’t have to trade on his genealogy to justify attention (though it also admittedly raises curiosity and draws attention). But after the initial buzz, the music justifies itself, on its own terms. The composer obviously shares a number of interests with his father’s aesthetic, but it’s a version that is quite contemporary, in his own voice. And in fact, Ligeti père hasn’t written a percussion piece as adventurous as Independence (yet)! A very impressive solo debut.

Robert Carl, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Pattern Transformation by Lukas Ligeti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadinda Percussion Ensemble
Moving Houses by Lukas Ligeti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ethel
Independence by Lukas Ligeti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amadinda Percussion Ensemble
New York to Neptune by Lukas Ligeti
Delta Space by Lukas Ligeti

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