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Classical - Released May 24, 2019 | ECM New Series

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
"Zwiegespräche" is a meeting of spirits. “We compose the same way,” said György Kurtág to Heinz Holliger on hearing this recording, which emphasises works for oboe by these two major composers. Both of them reference the entire history of music in their pieces, both incorporate dedications and messages to friends and colleagues in the fabric of their work, and both draw upon literature as an inspirational source. Both, moreover, love the miniature as an expressive form; short pieces by Kurtág and Holliger are interwoven. Holliger’s sequence Airs (2015/6) is inspired by seven texts by Swiss poet Philippe Jaccottet, whose voice is heard here. Heinz Holliger turns 80 on May 21, his creativity as composer and his resourcefulness as instrumentalist undimmed. The album concludes with Holliger’s Sonate für Oboe solo, composed in 1956, and still played by its author with absolute authority. © ECM Records
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Classical - Released August 2, 2019 | audite Musikproduktion

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In the history of music, György Kurtág is a figure apart. Born in Hungary in 1926, he stood aside from the great ideological movements of his time and created his own personal language in solitude, thinking of music as he put it, "as an ongoing search". But while doggedly independent, he was also a man of culture whose language developed in the shadow of two great teachers: Bartók and Beethoven, the former following on largely from the latter. A champion of the small form, Kurtág also drew inspiration (when he wasn't revisiting them explicitly) from Bach, Schubert and Schumann.This thrilling album offers a journey through the composer's private world, with pieces that take in song (a leitmotif of his oeuvre), violin, cimbalom and double bass – instruments of Hungarian folk tradition.From the poetic highlights of Stsenï iz romana ("Scenes from a novel on poems by Rimma Dalos") sung in Russian, to the Homage to his friend, the painter Berényi Ferenc, this perfectly-performed recording follows the trail of a particularly secret and captivating composer. The Eight Duets for Violin and Cimbalom, Op.4 are taken in hand by a Hungarian virtuoso playing one of his favourite instruments, the cimbalom, which is at once typical of Magyar culture and a link to the medieval psalter. The Seven Songs, Op.22 evoke Japanese haikus through their brevity and content, and conjure up the stunning final image of a snail ascending Mount Fuji. Egy Téli alkony emlékére ("In memory of a Winter evening") is a very expressive and moving rendering of long evenings spent at the fireside.The Russian poet Rimma Dalos summed up Kurtág's personality: "Kurtág always chose the minimalist and the romantic. The poetry of the small form, the aphorism, a weightlessness which is at the same time very weighty. To speak without saying it all, to graze but not break, to penetrate without betraying." We couldn't put it better. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released April 28, 2017 | ECM New Series

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
This fine, triple-CD collection of music by Hungarian composer György Kurtág is titled with uncharacteristic imprecision by ECM: it is a collection not of works for ensemble and choir, but of ensemble, vocal, and choral works. As such, it covers a good many of the milestones of this composer's output, which hovered for many years between western Europe and the East Bloc scene, covering developments from the sparse text-setting of the earlier major song sets to the newer accessibility that were explored by other composers, but maintaining a distinctive voice all the while. The performances were painstakingly rehearsed, sometimes under the supervision of Kurtág himself. The set could easily serve as a basic Kurtág entry in a library of contemporary music, but in places it's much more than that. Get your hands on the best piece of sound equipment you can, and sample one of the pieces on CD 2 bearing the notation that the instruments should be "dispersed in space," perhaps Samuel Beckett: What Is the Word, Op. 30b. Beyond the novelty of hearing Beckett in Hungarian, and the usefulness of addressing the importance of the minimalist Irish playwright in Kurtág's own thinking, you get ECM's engineering at its most awesome, as nearly as possible reproducing the sense of space that a physical performance would have had. An ambitious release that lives up to its aims; highly recommended. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released September 9, 2016 | ATMA Classique

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Classical - Released October 1, 1996 | ECM New Series

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Classical - Released August 2, 2019 | Avie Records

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In the history of music, György Kurtág is a figure apart. Born in Hungary in 1926, he stood aside from the great ideological movements of his time and created his own personal language in solitude, thinking of music as he put it, "as an ongoing search". But while doggedly independent, he was also a man of culture whose language developed in the shadow of two great teachers: Bartók and Beethoven, the former following on largely from the latter. A champion of the small form, Kurtág also drew inspiration (when he wasn't revisiting them explicitly) from Bach, Schubert and Schumann.Susan Narucki, the soloist on this album, has given an insightful discretion of the contents of the programme: Troussova for soprano and large instrumental ensemble is the first of Kurtág's works to win him an international audience; he finished Scenes from a novel a few years later. These pieces both use words from the Russian poet Rimma Dalos. On the surface, the stories they tell are similar: tales of unhappy love. But in some respects, Scenes from a novel is the more bitter of the two. The lover's ecstasy is short-lived, and the protagonists' uncertainty and frustration become ever more palpable as their relationship becomes more precarious.In Troussova, it is implied that the protagonist is ending their life; the protagonist of Scenes from a novel endures and resists – while less dramatic, this message is more poignant and corrosive. Sound-memory for soprano and violin is a musical setting of short poems by Dezső Tandori.In memory of a Winter’s night, based on verse by Hungarian poet Pál Gulyás, is a youthful work that calls on the cimbalom – that iconic instrument of Hungarian folk tradition – and sets it alongside violin and human voice. By the time of the Seven Songs, Op. 22, Kurtág's writing for the cimbalom was completely integrated into his mature style; in these six short pieces based on poems by Amy Károlyi and Issa Kobayashi, the vocal line and the cimbalom come together to shed greater light on the words, which are by turns enchanting, passionate and evanescent. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Quartets - Released August 1, 2013 | NEOS Music

Distinctions Diapason d'or
It has become a cliché to describe the music of György Kurtág as "aphoristic," but it's hard to avoid applying the term to the composer's concise, apt, striking, intensely focused musical utterances. This 2011 CD includes the complete string quartets he had written up to that time, covering a span of half a century. It lasts 70 minutes and has 45 tracks, the shortest taking 17 seconds and the longest a practically monumental four and a half minutes. Kurtág's genius lies in making every movement feel like it lasts just exactly as long as it ought to -- each makes a complete statement and then is done -- it's an attribute many composers could benefit from learning. Five of these pieces are single movements, but most of the tracks are part of multi-movement works. The composer's tonal language can be dense, but the brevity of each movement allows the listener to focus on its expressive intent. In the 16-movement Officium breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánsky there is plenty of variety in the character of the movements -- in their tempo, volume, harmony, texture, and counterpoint -- but the overall tone is clearly one of mourning. The single-movement "Arioso -- Hommage à Walter Levin 85" ("in the manner of Alban Berg") is played twice, on the first and last tracks, a lovely, lyrical, melancholy adagio that beautifully frames the album. Athena Quartet plays the rigorously demanding music with precision and obvious understanding of its emotional core. This is not music for casual listening, but it richly rewards focused attention. The sound of the hybrid SACD is clean, detailed, and clear. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 24, 2006 | ECM New Series

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Classical - Released April 1, 2016 | BMC Records

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Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | BMC Records

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released January 1, 1996 | Ondine

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Classical - Released May 26, 2003 | ECM New Series

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György Kurtág's small output is unlikely to increase much in the future since he has come to regard his compositions as works in progress, to be reworked according to need. His Hölderlin-Gesänge is just such an open-ended piece and exists in several versions. The six songs extracted here are unsettling in their extremes. Kurt Widmer's soft singing in An...and Im Walde evokes isolation, but this mood is violently interrupted by the trombone and tuba blasts in Gestalt und Geist, played respectively by Heinrich Huber and David LeClair. Unaccompanied singing returns in the remaining songs, but their extended vocal techniques continue the sense of uneasiness. Nineteen short movements make up this performance of Signs, Games and Messages. These brief sections demand the listener's close attention, for the work may otherwise seem like a catalog of random effects. The Orlando Trio plays with precision and energy, but the music may still seem gnomic in spite of its valiant efforts. By far the most theatrical piece, ...Pas à pas -- nulle part... employs baritone, string trio, and several percussion instruments. Often spare and sometimes beautiful in its combinations, the work nevertheless has great potential to shock. Widmer, the Orlando Trio, and percussionist Mircea Ardeleanu deliver a compelling performance full of intensity and extraordinary color. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 2, 2015 | BIS

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Classical - Released November 1, 2006 | SWR Classic

Kurtág's choral music is recognizably the product of the same imagination that produced his exquisite vocal miniatures, the cycles Scenes from a Novel and Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova -- lean, concise, texturally spare, and almost Webernian, while at the same time being deeply expressive. The two a cappella works recorded here, Omaggio a Luigi Nono and Eight Choruses to Poems by Dezsö Tandori, fit that description well. The aphoristic poetry of Tandori, Anna Akhmatova, and Rimma Dalos inspired the composer to create music of comparable economy, and only a few movements last more than two minutes. A chorus is capable of making a huge sound, not an elemental characteristic of the composer's aesthetic, and Kurtág uses the resource judiciously. The choral writing is original, but fully idiomatic, and at the same time ethereally delicate and grindingly dissonant, with great textural inventiveness and gestural variety. The Songs of Despair and Sorrow sound more conventionally choral and are more accessible on first hearing. Using visually descriptive (and longer) texts by nineteenth and twentieth century Russian poets, Kurtág shows great sensitivity in vivid text painting. He employs the accompanying instrumental ensemble with restraint, often using only accordion-like bajans to support the voices. Kurtág's setting of Alexander Blok's "Night, an empty street, a lamp, a drug-store," is especially evocative and poignant. The SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart and Ensemble Modern, under Marcus Creed, give stunningly secure performances of these phenomenally difficult scores. Their surfaces are prickly, but they reward close listening with an experience of profound musical depth and richness. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released November 19, 2013 | Genuin

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Green is the final item in a trilogy by Swiss-German Amaryllis Quartett; the others were entitled White and Red. The sense of the titles remains obscure (it seems to refer merely to the graphic design on the CD covers), but the structure of the programs is consistent: Romantic string quartets are paired with works of the 20th century. It seems like a version of the programs of the classical music golden age, where the inclusion of one contemporary work was obligatory, but the Amaryllis pulls it off well all around. The contemporary work, György Kurtág's Officium Breve in memoriam Andreae Szervánsky, Op. 28 (1988), is an intriguing one, consisting of a sequence of 15 miniatures -- flashes of texture almost -- that are mostly less than a minute long. The immediate inspiration of the work is probably Anton Webern (although it is not serial), but it seems to work very well with the two Schumann quartets. Schumann's quartets in turn were partially inspired by study of Beethoven's late quartets, and the episodic yet tightly knit structure of, especially, the String Quartet No. 3 in A major, Op. 41/3. The Amaryllis Quartett gives distinctive modern performances of the Schumann pieces, which emerge as nervous, experimental, and highly original. In all it's a performance that knits together Romantic and Modern as well as any, and the players are supported by fine intimate quartet sound from Leipzig's Genuin label. Recommended. © TiVo
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 15, 2014 | Hungaroton

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released July 15, 2014 | Hungaroton

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Classical - Released March 22, 2011 | Mode Records

The trademark of György Kurtág's music is its conciseness. Of the 28 tracks on Signs, Games and Messages, only a handful last more than two minutes, and the longest, lasting almost five, seems positively Brobdingnagian in this context. One of the factors contributing to the appeal of the album is the brevity of the pieces, all of which (with one exception) are scored for solo viola. Each movement takes a striking, attention-grabbing idea, plays with it very briefly and then moves on before it wears out its welcome. An entire album devoted to a solo orchestral instrument (except for some masterpieces like J.S. Bach's Cello Suites) can be daunting because listening to the sound of a single instrument for an hour can weary the ear, but Kurtág's writing is so skillful and idiomatic, his exploitation of varied timbres so inventive, and his ideas so engaging that listeners who enjoy contemporary chamber music aren't likely to experience aural fatigue. This is the first recording of the complete set of Signs, Games and Messages, which is made up of 24 movements. (There is a recording of most but not all of the movements of a version of the piece for string trio, and Kurtág also wrote versions for violin, cello, and double bass.) The CD also includes four short independent works. Violist Maurizio Barbetti shows himself to be a virtuoso of the highest order in his gorgeous performance of this treacherously difficult music. No matter how far the composer pushes the boundaries of what is possible for a viola to play, Barbetti's technique is rock solid and his tone is warm and focused. He obviously understands and loves the music because even in its spikiest moments he invests it with direction and emotional meaning. Baritone Gianpiero Ruggeri demonstrates a comparable vocal mastery in the one movement in which he participates. The ambience is extremely reverberant, to the point that there is sometimes an echo. For this music, though, the cavernous acoustic does not seem inappropriate because the grandeur it imparts gives a gravity and heft to these aphoristic gestures played a single instrument and makes an unambiguous statement: the performing forces may be small and the music miniature, but the experience they offer is richly textured and large scale. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 25, 2014 | SWRmusic

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Classical - Released January 1, 1993 | Valeria Szervánszky & Ronald Cavaye