Described as ‘one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time’,
György Ligeti (1923 – 2006) was able to constantly reinvent himself. In his earliest works, written in Communist Hungary, the musical language is often an extension of that of Bartók’s and he kept his most daring compositions to himself. Escaping Hungary in 1956 he was able to revel in the freedom to experiment – with electronic techniques as well as elaborate serialism – but he was forever sceptical of schools and steered his own course throughout life. The 1960s and early 70s were a highly productive period, which saw works such as Lux Aeterna and Lontano, as well as three of the works on the present disc. In the Cello Concerto and the Chamber Concerto, Ligeti in different ways explores the idea of the concerto as something collective, rather than polarised between the one and the many. The Cello Concerto is striking, and even provocative, in that the soloist often seems to aspire to silence and even absence rather than virtuosic display. The Chamber Concerto, on the other hand, dazzles because here all 13 players are unmistakably present, all essential to the design and character of the whole. Like the Cello Concerto – and the Piano Concerto – Melodien can be performed by large orchestra, but also, as on the present recording, with a single string player per part, becoming a natural pendant to the Chamber Concerto. The disc closes with the Piano Concerto from 1988, which Ligeti had begun sketching eight years earlier but was only able to proceed with after having composed his first set of studies for piano solo. Ligeti himself described the five-movement work as a statement of his ‘aesthetic credo’. Performing these complex scores is the Norwegian specialist ensemble BIT 20 under the Swiss conductor Baldur Brönnimann, with soloists Christian Poltéra and Joonas Ahonen, making his first appearance on the BIS label.
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