#1 Sinfonie-Orchester des Hessischen Rundfunks Frankfurt, Dirigent: Michael Gielen. Choir: Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Einstud. Wolfgang Schubert) Liliana Poli - Sopran, Barbra Ericson - Mezzosopran
#3 Gertie Charlent, Sopran; Marie-Therese Cahn, Alt; William Pearson, Bariton. Internationales Kammerensemble Darmstadt, Dirigent: Bruno Maderna
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For soprano and mezzo-soprano solo, two mixed choirs and orchestra
Composed spring 1963 to January 1965
First performance: 14 March 1965, Stockholm, Liliana Poli, Barbro Ericson, Choir and Orchestra of the Swedish Radio, conductor: Michael Gielen (choirmaster: Eric Ericson)
For: Soprano and mezzo-soprano solo, two five-part mixed choirs, tripled woodwind (including piccolo, cor anglais, E flat, bass and double-bass clarinet, double-bassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, bass-trumpet, 2 trombones, double-bass trombone, double-bass tuba; percussion, celesta, harp, harpsichord, strings 1. Introitus; 2. Kyrie; 3. De die judicii sequentia; 4. Lacrimosa
The position of Ligeti's Requiem is one of an avant-garde reflection on the situation of music at the time of total chromaticism; at the same time, however, it refers with remarkably careful craftsmanship back to the classical vocal polyphony of the old masters. This acknowledgment of tradition may at first surprise us: not only is the composition based on a text which belongs because of its collective use throghout the centuries to a firmly defined area of experience and education, but it is also committed to musical means which do not essentially diverge from the historical settings of the Requiem. Nevertheless, these traditional means are not used as an intractable formal model, but are so extensively rethought that the end-result is newly created from the particular situation. In the Introitus, a static plane of sound, as it were, which stretches without any major caesura from the first to the last bar, is gradually transformed. In the realm of expression, the gradual transition from a voice of mourning into the promise of eternal light is accomplished. And sound which is chromatically layered moves gradually from the lower registers to the higher. In the Kyrie the polyphonic net which was previously static begins to move gently. The traditional model for the form is a kind of double fugue for five voices, in which the duality of the themes does not conform to the conventional concept of theme, but is rethought on the level of the musical material. The gently flowing motion is violently rent in the second half as the orchestral instruments suddenly bring certain supporting notes to an end in the fortissimo. These breaks prepare us for an episode of formal construction in the next movement. This is the kernel of the composition: a Dies irae of great dramatic, even theatrical movement, constructed in numerous contrasting sections, so that the differentiated stratification seems to have slipped as it were from the vertical into the horizontal. Opposite extremes of exaltation, from the very loud to the very soft, from the highest to the lowest registers, from the aggressive to the gentle, are the modes of expression that characterize the overall form of this movement. The Lacrimosa verses of the Dies irae - subsequently added to the poem by Thomas of Celano - are given a separate movement in Ligeti's setting. The composition returns to its mood of restraint. The choir is silent, only the two soloists and a reduced orchestra have survived the end of the world. Beckett's total emptiness, the remaining nothingness becomes sound. We remember the region of sound evoking perpetual light from the end of the first movement, although it does not remain as a fixed quotation.
Aventures Nouvelles Aventures
for 3 singers and 7 instrumentalists
Composed between 1962 and 1965
First performance: 4 April 1963/26 May 1966, Hamburg, Gertie Charlent, Marie-Therese Cahn, William Pearson; "die reihe" ensemble, Vienna, conductor: Friedrich Cerha/Members of the NDR Symphony Orchestra, conductor: Andrzej Markowski
For coloratura soprano, contralto, baritone; flute, horn, percussion, harpsichord,
piano/celesta, cello, double-bass ("Aventures"): Agitato - Presto - "Conversation" - Allegro appassionato - Soste-nuto grandioso - "Action dramatique" ("Nouvelles Aventures"): I. Sostenuto ("Ritornell") - Piu mosso - "Hoquetus" -"Commerages" - "Communication"; II. Agitato molto - "Choral" - Agitato molto - "Les horloges demoniaques" - Prestissimo misterioso - "Coda"
In the vocal and instrumental compositions "Aventures" and "Nouvelles Aventures" I have used an artificial language. An invented language like this has the same relationship to actual language as a shell to a kernel. All the ritualized human emotions that are expressed colloquially, such as understanding and dissension, dominion and subjection, honesty and deceit, arrogance, disobedience, indeed, even the subtlest nuances of irony hidden behind apparent agreement, as well as esteem hidden behind apparent scorn - all this and very much more can, be expressed exactly in the a-semantic emotional artificial language. The "text", written in phonetic lettering, was not drafted before the composition, but developed at the same time as the music; that is to say, that as pure composition of spoken sound, it is itself music. The point of departure for the spoken sound composition was an idea of the interrelations in emotional behavior, and not an abstract plan of construction. Of course, for the technical realization of the composition it is necessary to have an exactly defined phonetic plan with definite groupings of sounds and of transformations of sounds, too; but these groupings were primarily chosen because of their ability to evoke the emotional content within a speech-like texture. It is not, therefore, the setting of a text in the conventional sense. The text is conveyed rather, by the music and the music by the text. Similarly, the vocal writing is not "accompanied" by the instrumental writing, but the instruments are handled in such a way that they complete or highlight the human sounds: the phonetic composition penetrates the sphere of the instrumental composition. Through this intensified emotionalization, as well as through the gestures and miming that result from it, the purely musical element moves in the direction not dia narrative, and yet of an emotionally defined work for the stage. When you listen to it, it is as though you were hearing a kind of "opera" with the unfolding adventures of imaginary characters on an imaginary stage. And so the opposite of what we were used to at the performance of an opera occurs: the stage and protagonists are evoked by the music - the music is not performed to accompany an opera, but an opera is performed within the music.
-Gyorgy Ligeti (English translation by Sarah E. Soulsby)