György Ligeti – Musica Ricercata 2-11 with sheet music
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György Ligeti, in full György Sándor Ligeti, (born May 28, 1923, Diciosânmartin [now Tîrnăveni], Transylvania, Romania—died June 12, 2006, Vienna, Austria), a leading composer of the branch of avant-garde music concerned principally with shifting masses of sound and tone colours.
Ligeti, the great-nephew of violinist Leopold Auer, studied and taught music in Hungary until the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, when he fled to Vienna; he later became an Austrian citizen. He subsequently met avant-garde composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and became associated with centres of new music in Cologne and Darmstadt, Germany, and in Stockholm and Vienna, where he composed electronic music (e.g., Artikulation, 1958) as well as music for instrumentalists and vocalists. In the early 1960s he caused a sensation with his Future of Music—A Collective Composition (1961) and his Poème symphonique (1962). The former consists of the composer regarding the audience from the stage and the audience’s reactions to this; the latter is written for 100 metronomes operated by 10 performers.
Most of Ligeti’s music after the late 1950s involved radically new approaches to music composition. Specific musical intervals, rhythms, and harmonies are often not distinguishable but act together in a multiplicity of sound events to create music that communicates both serenity and dynamic anguished motion. Examples of these effects occur in Atmosphères (1961) for orchestra; Requiem (1963–65) for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two choruses, and orchestra; and Lux Aeterna (1966) for chorus. These three works were later featured in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which brought Ligeti a wider audience; his music appeared in later movies, including several others by Kubrick. In Aventures (1962) and Nouvelles Aventures (1962–65), Ligeti attempts to obliterate the differences between vocal and instrumental sounds. In these works the singers hardly do any “singing” in the traditional sense.
In Ligeti’s Cello Concerto (1966), the usual concerto contrast between soloist and orchestra is minimized in music of mainly very long lines and slowly changing, very nontraditional textures. Other works include Clocks and Clouds (1972–73) for female chorus and orchestra, San Francisco Polyphony (1973–74) for orchestra, Piano Concerto (1985–88), and Hamburg Concerto (1999) for horn. Ligeti also wrote 18 piano études (1985–2001) and the opera Le Grande Macabre (1978, revised 1997). Ligeti was the recipient of many honours, including the Grand Austrian State Prize for music (1990), the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for music (1991), and the Theodor W. Adorno Prize from the city of Frankfurt for outstanding achievement in music (2003).
Musica ricercata is a set of eleven pieces for piano by György Ligeti. The work was composed from 1951 to 1953, shortly after the composer began lecturing at the Budapest Academy of Music. The work premiered on 18 November 1969 in Sundsvall, Sweden. Although the ricercata (or ricercar) is an established contrapuntal style (and the final movement of the work is in that form), Ligeti’s title should probably be interpreted literally as “researched music” or “sought music”. This work captures the essence of Ligeti’s search to construct his own compositional style ex nihilo, and as such presages many of the more radical directions Ligeti would take in the future.
In response to a request by the Jeney Quintet, six of the movements were arranged for wind quintet as Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (1953). They are, in order: III, V, VII, VIII, IX, X.
Eight movements (I, III, IV, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI) were transcribed for bayan by Parisian accordionist Max Bonnay.
II. Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale
Both the material and mood of this movement differ markedly from the first. The principal theme is a plaintive alternation between E♯ and F♯ (a mere semi-tone). This theme is heard both solo (i.e., in a single octave), and in quiet (una corda) octaves on both ends of the piano. The entrance of G near the middle of the piece is particularly stark, being vigorously attacked in an accelerando similar to that in the first movement. The G continues to sound in an unmetered tremolo as the main theme returns in a more “menacing” context. The movement gradually dissolves, with both the main theme and repeated G’s fading into silence.
Portions of this movement were featured on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick‘s Eyes Wide Shut.
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