##1-4 Die Reihe Ensemble, conducted by Friedrich Cerha
#5 Conducted by Ernest Bour
#6 Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Antonio Janigro
#7 Stuttgart Schola Cantorum, conducted by Clytus Gottwaold
#8 Conducted by Ernest Bour
========= from the cover ==========
Chamber Concerto for thirteen players. Composed 1969/70
First performance: 1 October 1970, Berlin, "die reihe" ensemble, conductor: Friedrich Cerha;
(a first, three-movement version was performed 11 May 1970, Vienna)
For flute (doubling piccolo), oboe (doubling oboe d'amore and coranglais), clarinet in Bb, bass clarinet (doubling 2nd clarinet in Bb), horn in F, harpsichord and Hammond organ (or harmonium), piano and celesta (one performer for both on each occasion), two violins, viola, cello, double-bass 1. Corrente (fiiessend); 2. Calmo, sostenuto; 3. Movimento preciso e meccanico; 4. Presto
Ligeti calls his four movement Chamber Concerto a "lighter sister" of the String Quartet. This should not, however, be misunderstood as meaning "light-weight" nor as "popular"; what is meant is that characteristic of immediacy which, despite the complexity of its composition, makes the Chamber Concerto seem more transparent, more accessible. The title, moreover, does not attempt to relate in any significant way to historical models, but rather to define exactly what the work is: chamber music, to be sure, but at the same time virtuoso, concertante music for an ensemble of solo instruments consisting of six wind instrumentalists, five string players and two keyboard players. Two aspects of composition are particularly remarkable: firstly, a many-layered structure of rhythms reminiscent of Ives created by consistently using different tempi in several parts at the same time; secondly, a consistent technique of pitch permutation which dissolves the harmony into free figuration. The two together constitute that almost indefinable quality of the cloudy, iridescent, shifting, which is so characteristic of Ligeti's style. Nevertheless, a tendency towards consolidation can be clearly observed: out of the grey sea of blurred elements emerge from time to time melodic contours, rhythmic figures and perceptible harmonies. While the first movement displays a web of closely-woven, agile, independently-moving parts like an intricate piece of filigree, the second begins with an almost static passage which moyes with constant viscosity into a very fast second part whose energy then gradually seems to slacken into a quasi-recapitulation of the first part. The "mechanically precise" third movement gives a further variant of the "Continuum" pattern. And the finale, a compendium of strange, crazy, rapid cadences has the effect of a ghostly whirring perpetuum mobile - a furious whisper.
Ramifications for string orchestra
or twelve solo string players
First performance: 23 April 1969, Berlin, Radio Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Michael Gielen;
Solo version: 10 October 1969, Saarbrucken, Chamber Orchestra of the Saar Radio, conductor: Antonio Janigro. Scored for Group 1:4 violins, viola and cello, tuned a little more than a quarter-tone higher; Group II: 3 violins, viola, cello, double-bass
"Ramifications" represents a further development of my method of composition with complex musical net-formations; it is, as it were, a terminus in the development from "dense and static" to "broken-up and mobile". The title refers to the polyphonic technique of the part-writing; in one skein, individual parts that are twisted together move in divergent directions so that the strands of the voices gradually become disentangled. The total form is made up of the alternation of ramification and unification of the parts and of the rents or bunching together of the net-formation that ensues from this. And as well as that, there are in this piece new aspects of a micro-tonal harmony. Even earlier I was occasionally working with deviations from the equal temperament (Requiem, "Volumina", "Harmonies**, Second String Quartet). But what is new here is the consistent application of an idea of hyperchromatic harmony. This is made possible by one half of the string instruments being tuned a quarter-tone higher than the others. From the automatically ensuing differences in intonation when the instruments are played, arises a fluctuation in pitch such that one can hardly ever hear exact quarter-tone intervals. In only a few dense places approximative quarter-tone clusters result; apart from that we find a totally new kind of "uncertain" harmony, as though the harmonies had rotted: they have a strong taste and decay has permeated the music.
for sixteen-voice mixed choir a cappelia. Composed summer 1966
First performance: 2 November 1966, Stuttgart, Schola
Cantorum, Conductor: Clytus Gottwald
Although "Lux aeterna" seems from the choice of its text to be a supplementary addition to the Requiem, it nevertheless heralds a new phase in the assembly of sound in Ligeti's composition: harmonic forms become crystallized in one another, the path from one note to another is realized in specific stages of blurring. The parts gradually lose their stability, and their original color is gradually lost in secondary colours. Canon provides the medium for these wanderings. This kind of composition tends to gradual-ness, and this of course determines the whole form. The only breach in the continuity, in which Ligeti evokes the phantom of discontinuity, is the tutti entry in approximately the middle of the piece (bar 61); the insubstantial sonorous line of men's voices splits up at the entry of all the voices - always a moment of nonviolent power despite the prescribed pp. And yet the tutti entrance is not unexpected: the complex of women's voices (bars 1-36) is followed by a corresponding complex of men's voices (bars 37-60). This exposition of simple contrasts turns their synthesis into a necessity. Not that the following passage reflects this total structure with a mirror-image, but rather lets it gradually disintegrate in a process of transformation through various stages. Ligeti's "Lux aeterna" is allergic to everything affirmative, it distances itself as much from the "commitment" of the chorale as from the exultation of praise with drums beating and trumpets sounding. "Eternal light" thereby loses the false glow of a hereafter in which people finally find the peace that they were deprived of in life.
for large orchestra without percussion Composed between February and July 1961 First performance: 22 October 1961, Donaueschingen, SWF Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Hans Rosbaud For quadruple wind (including piccolos, E flat clarinet, double bassoon), 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, piano (2 performers), 28 violins, 10 violas, 10 cellos, 8 double-basses
The idea behind the work for orchestra "Atmospheres" is as follows: a texture of sound is to be developed that will demonstrate the phenomenon of acoustically standing still. The old kind of thematically developing music as well as the structural music that everyone has been talking about since the 1950s are both defined by the interchange of acoustic events and pauses. In "Atmospheres" this alternation is virtually cancelled. Event and pause occur conceptually at the same time, while, as in the atmosphere, a constant, uninterrupted vibration occurs, but remains merely as background, in front of which nothing happens - as little, in fact, as in actual pauses. This idea is fixed acoustically right at the beginning of the work: with a blurred complex of sound, a cluster, that appears to be stationary. And yet within it there is movement, as of breathing; the volume diminishes like a breath streaming out and tending to die away. Moreover, it reveals a kind of web-pattern: in the middle it is fairly dense, while the intensity of sound tapers ofTin the low and high registers. The spatial concept of sound which at the beginning is rather vague is therefore specified with the greatest accuracy in a very detailed score and static sound is actually composed with great precision. By very reason of such pronounced preoccupation with the realm of material things, it may be a surprise to learn that while he was composing the work Ligeti thought of the representation of a mass for the dead, as though far below, in the remote distance, sub-liminally a requiem were taking place simultaneously. And in approximately the middle of the composition (which is dedicated to the memory of Matyas Seiber) there is a passage in which the persistently stationary sound is suddenly cut by a tilting down from the high frequency range of the piccolos and violins into the depths of the double-basses. We may assume this to be a symbolic passage, a leap into the underworld, the instant at which a Dies irae might begin. Yet in evaluating these moments and others with connected associations, we should bear in mind that the emotions are always tempered by distance. The work should be contemplated from afar.
(English translation of all preceding introductory comments by Sarah E. Soulsby)