György Ligeti

Composer

contact

Celia Wynne Willson

cw(at)karstenwitt.com

+49 30 214 594-251

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Biography

György Ligeti, 1923 – 2006

György Ligeti was born on May 28, 1923, in Dicsöszentmárton (today named Tîrnaveni) in Romania. His parents belonged to the Hungarian-Jewish minority in Transylvania, and they soon moved with him to Cluj (Klausenburg), where he began to receive instruction in composition with Ferenc Parkas in 1941. The Nazi regime tore his family apart – his brother and father died in concentration camps, György Ligeti himself was set to forced labour, his mother survived Auschwitz.

After the war ended, Ligeti continued his studies in composing with Ferenc Farkas and Sándor Veress at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest. In addition to his focus on folk music, during this period he also began to develop the concept of a micropolyphonic compositional style. Although his folksong arrangements and his compositions based on Romanian and Hungarian folk melodies were published in Hungary, his new musical ideas could first come to full fruition upon his move to Vienna. This move had become necessary for him for political as well as artistic reasons after the Hungarian revolution of 1956.

In Cologne, he became acquainted with representatives of the avant-garde such as Gottfried Michael Koenig and Herbert Eimert, who invited him to the studio for electronic music at the West German Radio (WDR). He worked there from 1957 to 1958. He was now able to study intensely the music of Mauricio Kagel, Pierre Boulez, and Karlheinz Stockhausen; he himself, however, with compositions such as Artikulation, continued to follow his own compositional path, one which had little to do with serial, structural thinking. His orchestral piece Apparitions, premiered at the festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Cologne, helped him to reach a wider audience. His 1961 orchestral work Atmosphères, a seemingly static structure of single voices in constant flux through minute rhythmic, intervallic, and dynamic adjustments, secured his position on the international scene. As this piece, along with his Requiem (1963-65) and the choral piece Lux aeterna (1966), was chosen by Stanley Kubrick to be included in the soundtrack for his film 2001 – A Space Odyssey, Ligeti’s music was introduced to a broader public.

Micropolyphony remained an important point in his works, and was enriched in the coming years through various other components: in his short musical dramas Aventures (1962) and Nouvelles Aventures (1962-65), György Ligeti used an invented language made up of phonetically notated words. He explored the use of micro-intervals in Ramifications (1968-69). In the seventies, he often took an ironic approach to historical models of composition. One main work of this period is the opera Le Grand Macabre, based on a theatrical work by Michel de Ghelderode. It was premiered in Stockholm in 1978. Complex polyrhythms influence the works of the 80s and 90s, including his Piano Concerto (1985) and Violin Concerto (1990-92).

György Ligeti, who lived starting in the mid-1950s partially in Germany and partially in Austria, and in 1967 became an Austrian citizen, was also active as an educator. From 1961 to 1971, he was guest professor for composition in Stockholm, in 1972 he was composer-in-residence at Stanford University, and from 1973 until 1989 he taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg.

The prizes Ligeti has won for his compositional achievements are so numerous that only some of them can be named here. In 1991 he won the Praemium Imperiale, and in 1993 the Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikpreis. In 2004 he was honoured with the Polar Music Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

György Ligeti died in Vienna on 12 June 2006 at the age of 83.

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Works

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Media Centre

György Ligeti: Mysteries of the Macabre
Barbara Hannigan; Berliner Philharmoniker; Sir Simon Rattle

György Ligeti: Six Bagatelles for wind quintet
Carion

György Ligeti: Musica Ricercata No. 7
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Explore the Score

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Discography

You can download a complete discography of all recordings of György Ligeti's works here.

CR BIS

Ligeti – Concertos (Concerto for piano and orchestra, Concerto for cello and orchestra, Chamber Concerto for 13 instrumentalists, Melodien)

Joonas Ahonen (piano); Christian Poltéra (violoncello); BIT20 Ensemble; Baldur Brönnimann (conductor)
BIS-2209 SACD, 2016 

CR Musicales Actes Sud

LIGETI – Les Siècles Live : Six Bagatelles, Kammerkonzert, Dix pièces pour quintette à vent

Les Siècles ; François-Xavier Roth (conductor)
Musicales Actes Sud, 2016

CR NEOS

musica viva vol. 22: Ligeti · Murail · Benjamin (Lontano)

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; George Benjamin, (conductor)
NEOS, 11422, 2016

Shai Wosner

Shai Wosner | Haydn Ligeti, Concertos & Capriccios (Capriccios Nos. 1 and 2)

Shai Wosner (Piano); Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Nicolas Collon (Conductor)
Onyx Classics, ONYX4174, 2016

Bartók | Ligeti, Concerto for piano and orchestra, Concerto for cello and orchestra, Concerto for violin and orchestra

Bartók | Ligeti, Concerto for piano and orchestra, Concerto for cello and orchestra, Concerto for violin and orchestra

Hidéki Nagano (piano); Pierre Strauch (violoncello); Jeanne-Marie Conquer (violin); Ensemble intercontemporain; Matthias Pintscher (conductor)
Alpha, 217, 2015

Chorwerk

Chorwerk

(Négy Lakodalmi Tánc; Nonsense Madrigals; Lux æterna)
Noël Akchoté (electric guitar)
Noël Akchoté Downloads, GLC-2, 2015

Rameau | Ligeti

Rameau | Ligeti

(Musica ricercata)
Cathy Krier (piano)
Avi-Music ‎– 8553308, 2014

Zürcher Bläserquintett: Ligeti, Mozart, Nielsen, Villa-Lobos & Milhaud

Zürcher Bläserquintett: Ligeti, Mozart, Nielsen, Villa-Lobos & Milhaud

(Six Bagatelles)
Zürcher Bläserquintett
Jecklin, Jec 0723-2, 2014

Byrd, Bach and Ligeti

Byrd, Bach and Ligeti

(Passacaglia ungherese; Continuum; Hungarian Rock (Chaconne)
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
Wigmore Hall Live, WHLIVE0066, 2014

György Ligeti – Cello Concerto, Mysteries of the Macabre, Piano Concerto

György Ligeti – Cello Concerto, Mysteries of the Macabre, Piano Concerto

Marco Blaauw (trumpet); Nicolas Altstaedt (violoncello); Alberto Rosado (piano); PluralEnsemble; Fabián Panisello (conductor)
NEOS BBVA, 11013, 2014

György Ligeti – Métamorphoses nocturnes

György Ligeti – Métamorphoses nocturnes

(String Quartets Nos. 1 + 2; Sonata for Cello
Quatuor Béla
æon, AECD 1332, 2013

Armida Quartett – Bartók · Kurtág · Ligeti

Armida Quartett – Bartók · Kurtág · Ligeti

(String Quartet No. 1)
Armida Quartett
Avi-Music, 8553298, 2013

György Ligeti – Violin Concerto, Lontano, Atmosphères, San Francisco Polyphony

György Ligeti – Violin Concerto, Lontano, Atmosphères, San Francisco Polyphony

Benjamin Schmid (violin); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Hannu Lintu (conductor)
Ondine, ODE 1213-2, 2013

Bach · Ligeti · Armstrong

Bach · Ligeti · Armstrong

(Musica ricercata)
Kit Armstrong (piano)
Sony Classical, 88883747752, 2013

György Ligeti – Études pour piano

György Ligeti – Études pour piano

(Premier, deuxième + troisième livres)
Thomas Hell (piano)
Wergo, WER-6763 2, 2012

Bartók / Eötvös / Ligeti

Bartók / Eötvös / Ligeti

(Violin Concerto)
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin); Ensemble Modern; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra; Peter Eötvös (conductor)
NAÏVE, 822186052853, 2012

1948-2001: A Ligeti Odyssey

1948-2001: A Ligeti Odyssey

(Invention; Six Bagatelles; Volumina; Lux aeterna; Zehn Stücke; Sonata for Solo Viola; from Études pour piano [Premier + troisième livres])
Nobuko Imai (viola); Fredrik Ullén (piano); Hans-Ola Ericsson (organ); Schola Heidelberg; Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet; Walter Nußbaum (conductor)
BIS Records, Bis 1503, 2012

Kurtág/Ligeti – Music for Viola

Kurtág/Ligeti – Music for Viola

(Sonata for Viola Solo)
Kim Kashkashian (viola)
ECM New Series, 2240, 2012

Münchner Horntrio | Johannes Brahms, György Ligeti, Charles Koechlin

Münchner Horntrio | Johannes Brahms, György Ligeti, Charles Koechlin

(Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano "Hommage à Brahms")
Münchner Horntrio
Farao Classics, B 108037, 2012

Horn Trios | Brahms, Ligeti

Horn Trios | Brahms, Ligeti

(Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano "Hommage à Brahms")
Antje Weithaas (violin); Marie-Luise Neunecker (horn); Silke Avenhaus (piano)
BIS SACD 1859, 2012

Mei Yi Foo | Musical Toys

Mei Yi Foo | Musical Toys

(Musica ricercata)
Mei Yi Foo (piano)
Odradek Records, ODRCD302, 2012

Mobilis Saxophone Quartet | Ligeti, Desenclos, Bozza, Nagao

Mobilis Saxophone Quartet | Ligeti, Desenclos, Bozza, Nagao

(Six Bagatelles from "Musica Ricercata")
Mobilis Saxophone Quartet
Gramola Vienna, 98937, 2011

Atmosphères - Symphony No. 10

Atmosphères - Symphony No. 10

Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester; David Afkham (conductor)
Orfeo, 2011

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Reviews

From the first delicate notes of Ligeti’s atmospheric and densely structured piece “Lontano”, the hall was held in a state of suspense. Petrenko masterfully succeeded in letting the flowing, finely balanced sound swell up and subside again. The music unfolds as if approaching from afar, and at the end disappears into nothingness.
Musik Heute, Corina Kolbe, 15/09/2016

György Ligeti’s Ramifications, an indelible masterpiece of the gauziest microtonal weave (…). (…) Here, the tuning of one string group is a quarter-tone lower than the other, creating a quivering web of 24 pitches, moving through extremes of dynamic, pulsing with interference.
Theartsdesk.com, Helen Wallace, 21/08/2016

In its introverted way, György Ligeti’s horn trio is one of the most subversive masterpieces of the last half century. It was the work that in 1982 signalled a radical change of direction in Ligeti’s music, taking him away from the European avant garde and towards a style that not only drew on the music of the past but also incorporated elements from other musical cultures. Ligeti went on to refine many of the ideas and techniques he first explored in the trio, but it remains an extraordinary work (…).
The Guardian, Andrew Clements, 22/06/2016

Ligeti’s great, troublesome [violin] concerto, completed in 1992, reminded us how gripping an unbridled exploration of melodic, rhythmic and harmonic deviation can be.
Financial Times, Martin Bernheimer, 07/06/2016

With each passing year, Ligeti’s 18 études for solo piano (1985-2001) seem less like “new music” and more like classics. These pieces’ connection to their ancestors — Debussy’s own set of études, their movement perpetual, whether fast or slow; the grandiose drama of Liszt; the complex rhythmic games of Conlon Nancarrow — are ever more obvious.
The New York Times, Zachary Woolfe, 17/05/2016

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Links

More information on György Ligeti's works is available at www.schott-music.com, www.universaledition.com and www.edition-peters.com.

The Paul Sacher Foundation houses manuscripts and recordings of György Ligeti's music, as well as the composer's collected writings edited by Monika Lichtenfeld.

Discover György Ligeti's piano works through the interactive website Explore the Score, which has been developed by the Ruhr Piano Festival Foundation under the artistic aegis of Pierre-Laurent Aimard

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