Ligeti Project 1
Reinbert de Leeuw conducts four works by the Hungarian composer György Ligeti on this disc. The opener, Melodien, bubbles magically into earshot like the start of a dream. Wispy abstract figures float through the score with visionary logic. Two unisons at either end support the thin fabric like tent-poles. The four-movement Chamber Concerto for 13 instruments emerges from the mist. Sul ponticello strings flash like loose metal in a tin tank. The Movimento preciso e meccanico chugs amusingly like a rusty conveyor belt. The instruments, muted and staccato, play pulsing games with the stereo speakers. The Piano Concerto is real madhouse music. Pierre-Laurent Aimard holds no prominent piano part but is rather the integrated spokesman of a cackling, surrounding orchestra. Melodic motifs dominate the background like repeated heckles, and what sound like welt-inducing lash strokes stimulate the Allegro risoluto. The self-assured ramblings in the Presto luminoso challenge the listener to extract sense from it. Finally, Mysteries of the Macabre for Peter Masseurs' clean, solo trumpet and orchestra is a wacky excursion into the world of Ligeti's 30-year-old opera Le Grand Macabre. Humour is the appropriate device to dispel the seriousness of contemporary ideas. The ear is not even supposed to take this calculated chaos at face value. It is a step towards enlightenment. --Rick Jones
Piano concerto is played brilliantly by Aimard, better than his DG recording. Musical language of the work is very similar to Ligeti's Etudes, very complex and exciting if not so compelling as Chamber Concerto.
You need not wait too much longer for all Ligeti's best known orchestral works to become available in composer-approved Project form. This disc includes the "Chamber Concerto" (1970), previously available on Wergo, and the "Piano Concerto" (1988), again with Ligeti's favorite pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a piece previously recorded by Boulez for DG. I haven't seen "Melodien" (1971) on disc before, and also included is a new version of a section from Ligeti's opera "Le Grande Macabre" featuring trumpet.
Ligeti chose the musicians and directors himself, supervised the recording, and intends these to be the "standard" versions. Magnificent! A chronological presentation would have its merits, but the choice to place the "Piano Concerto" following the earlier works highlights the dramatic shift to a truly postmodern style in Ligeti's most recent period, and it deserves a wide hearing!