György Ligeti


for piano and orchestra
Ensemble/Chamber Orchestra with Soloist(s)
mit Klavier
Number of performers
1 (also pic.) · 1 · 1 (also contralto ocarina in G) · 1 – 1 · 1 · 1 · 0 – perc. (trgl. · 2 crot. · 2 s.c. (small and normal size) · 4 · 5 temple bl. · tamb. · s.dr. · 3 rototoms · 4 tom. · b.dr. · guiro · cast. · slapst. · mouth siren · police whistle · slide whistle · flex. · chromatic harmonica [Hohner 270] · glock. · xyl.) (1-2 performers) – str. (8 · 7 · 6 · 5 · 4 or soloistic 1 · 1 · 1 · 1 · 1)
Composition year(s)
World premiere
Mov. 1 - 3: Graz · Steirischer Herbst · Anthony di Bonaventura, piano · Members of the Wiener Philharmoniker · conductor: Mario di Bonaventura
Mov. 4 - 5: Wien · Anthony di Bonaventura, piano · ORF-Symphonieorchester · conductor: Mario di Bonaventura
I Vivace molto ritmico e preciso
II Lento e deserto
III Vivace cantabile
IV Allegro risoluto, molto ritmico
V Presto luminoso

György Ligeti: The Ligeti Project © 2016 Warner Classics 0825646028580

Comment of the composer on the work

The five-movement Piano Concerto (also with chamber orchestra) dates from a later period — the second half of the 1980s — and is the result of a radical stylistic change in my writing: by this date I had not only abandoned total chromaticism, which now struck me as historically superseded, I had also stopped working with micropolyphonic textures. Following a series of “soft” pieces with blurred transitions and a high degree of fusion between voices and timbres, I turned towards more distinct and more transparent crystalline musical structures. The dividing line in this stylistic realignment is the first volume of piano studies that I wrote in 1985 and that were immediately followed by the present concerto. The studies and the concerto are both based on a new way of thinking about rhythm. Until then I had produced polyrhythms by superimposing different layers moving at different speeds. The new pieces have what I would call a “grainy” rhythmic texture: in the third movement of the Piano Concerto, for example, there is a succession of regular rapid pulses, with the individual melodic and rhythmic shapes emerging from different groupings of these pulses or “grains”. The situation is analogous to the relationship between pixels and image on a television screen: the pixels light up and disappear again in rapid succession, without moving, but the illusion of moving pictures is created by the motionless elements that make up the image alternately lighting up and fading out again. In this way the surface “lives”.

The idea of graininess was already present in my 1962 piece for metronomes, but in that work there were countless different speeds, in other words, countless different grains of differing sizes. The key work in this context came in 1968 with Continuum for harpsichord, in which the harpsichordist creates a regular rhythmic framework. Illusionary patterns appear grafted on to this raster and can be heard even though they are not played. Much later — during the first half of the 1980s — I learnt of the existence of these illusionary musical shapes in musical cultures in Africa. Gerhard Kubik has called them “inherent patterns”. In 1982, as a result of the great similarity in ways of thinking about music that I discovered by chance between African polyrhythms and my own approach to composition (after Continuum, there was also Monument for two pianos in 1976), I started listening to more and more recordings, beginning with Simha Arom’s records from the Central African Republic. Later I read a great deal about these techniques, and Artur Simon’s book Musik in Afrika, which includes several studies by Kubik, became my “Bible”. In this way, the breadth of my horizon changed. Even so, my Piano Concerto has nothing to do with folk music, as these influences are exclusively technical.

© 2001–2003 Teldec Classics & 2004 Warner Classics, Warner Music UK Ltd | Translation: Louise Duchesneau