Ligeti - 6 Bagatelles, Kammerkonzert, 10 Pieces for Wind Quintet
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Label: Actes Sud
Cat No: ASM26
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 18th November 2016
1Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Allegro Con Spirito
2Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Rubato. Lamentoso
3Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Allegro Grazioso
4Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Presto Ruvido
5Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Adagio. Mesto (In Memoriam Bela Bartok)
6Ligeti: Six Bagatelles - Molto Vivace. Capriccioso
7Ligeti: Kammerkonzert - Corrente (Fliessend)
8Ligeti: Kammerkonzert - Calmo Sostenuto
9Ligeti: Kammerkonzert - Movimento Preciso E Meccanico
10Ligeti: Kammerkonzert - Presto
11Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Molto Sostenuto E Calmo
12Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Prestissimo Minaccioso E Burlesco
13Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - .Lento
14Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Prestissimo Leggiero E Virtuoso
15Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Presto Staccatissimo E Leggiero
16Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Lo Stesso. Presto Staccatissimo E Leggiero
17Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Vivo, Energico
18Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Allegro Con Delicatezza
19Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Sostenuto, Stridente
20Ligeti: Dix Pieces Pour Quintette a Vent - Presto Bizzaro
Proof of this comes with a new disc from François-Xavier Roth and the musicians of Les Siècles. More usually heard playing period instruments in performances of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century music, here they exchange their older instruments for modern ones, while retaining all their customary sensibility to timbral range and variety. The results are enormously captivating, helped by a sympathetically warm but detailed sound-picture. The outer works are two sets of miniatures for wind quintet, opening with the Six Bagatelles of 1953. Culled from Ligeti’s eleven-movement piano work Musica ricercata, these are short movements with gradually expanding numbers of pitches (the first Bagatelle, for example, uses just the notes C, E flat, E natural and G). Stylistically there are nods to Stravinsky and Bartók (to whose memory the fifth Bagatelle is dedicated), but they have a very modern edginess to them which resulted in their banning by the 1950s Hungarian regime. Yet they have huge character, often mischievous, and since their eventual premiere in the 1960s they have become among the composer’s most popular and frequently performed works. The performances on this disc are lively, pert and probing, nothing of Ligeti’s challenging trickiness eluding the players.
The other miniatures are the 1968 10 Pieces for wind quintet, tougher musically, and featuring that extraordinary combination (sometimes side-by-side, at others simultaneous) of prolific detail and slow gradation: what Ligeti termed ‘clear and cloudy’ music. Out-of-sync ostinati and mechanistic figuration rub shoulders with sustained textures (sometimes harsh, at others gentle), so that these pieces – none of them more than two-and-a-half minutes long – punch well above their weight.
And the same can also be said of the central work on the disc, the larger-scale Chamber Concerto of 1970. With single strings, brass and keyboards added to the mix, and an almost symphonic four-movement layout, this is both substantial and vividly characterful music, and it receives a gripping performance here, less analytic and confrontational than Boulez’s famous DG account, bringing out more of the music’s ‘chamber’ character. The first movement, with its magical opening textures and references to Berg and Messiaen, is the most memorable, but throughout the work Roth and his musicians clearly relish the physicality of Ligeti’s writing just as much as the quicksilver mood changes. The mechanistic third movement emerges with particular forcefulness, while in the virtuosic closing Presto the players rise tremendously to the challenges.
This is a hugely attractive disc which should appeal to both seasoned listeners and newcomers to Ligeti’s music. The programme is a well-balanced one, and the presentation exemplary. Don’t be misled by the short playing time (some 44 minutes): there’s more music packed into this than on most discs almost twice the length.
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