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Classical - Released September 24, 2013 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Hi-Res Audio
Listeners looking for a good pick to start getting acquainted with the music of Hungarian composer György Ligeti can look no further than this Finnish release. The forces involved, with Austrian violinist Benjamin Schmid and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, encompass both Ligeti's own Central European origins and the profound effect his works have had on the contemporary Finnish school; one would expect them all to do well with this technically difficult stuff, and they do. And the selection of works is ideal. There's Ligeti's one really big orchestral hit, Atmosphères, which appeared in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The logical place to go after that is Lontano (1967), which reflects the composer's tendency to begin with a simple sonority such as a unison and develop a unique tonal world step by step (the beauty of Ligeti is he can't easily be classified as tonal or atonal). There's a major underrated work, the Violin Concerto (presented in its 1993 five-movement form), a technical tour de force in which both the soloist and orchestral players must execute difficult out-of-tune effects. Unusual sonorities abound; the massed ocarinas in the second movement are presumably unique in the repertory. And precisely at the center of the work is a striking representation of musical chaos. With all this under the listener's belt, the album ends with a dense, detailed work of the sort that without context puts listeners off this composer: the San Francisco Polyphony (1974). There's a lot to absorb here, no doubt, but this is the kind of album that will be on repeat. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 6, 2017 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Classical - Released December 11, 1996 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released October 1, 2006 | BIS

Fredrik Ullén, who performs all of Ligeti's piano music on this two-CD set, comments in the program notes about being struck by "the immediacy of the music, in spite of its complexity." His statement pretty well sums up the enormous appeal of Ligeti's work and accounts for his standing as one of the most universally respected and popular composers of "serious" music in the second half of the twentieth century. He was able to write music that incorporated some of the most advanced technical developments of his era and make it attractive to broad audiences. Ligeti's piano music, which spanned his career from his student days until the end of his life, offers a distilled traversal of many of the musical styles he embraced and illuminates his deepening maturity as a composer. In bringing together all of Ligeti's piano music, Ullén demonstrates the composer's mastery of a wide diversity of styles, as well as the breadth and emotional range of his vision. Ullén places the etudes on the first disc (presumably because they are the showpiece of the set) with the remaining pieces in order of their composition on the second disc, but the listener would more profitably reverse the order to receive the full impact of the composer's development. The pieces collected here fall into three periods; works written between 1941 and 1953, when his awareness of the musical innovations of the West had been limited by his isolation in Communist-ruled Hungary, experimental pieces written after he fled to Vienna in 1956 and was exposed to the influences of the Darmstadt School, and pieces written in the mature style of the etudes. The revelation of the earlier works is how marvelously entertaining they are, notable for their lively inventiveness, geniality, and wit; he reveals himself as the rare composer who can express humor in music without resorting to parody or grotesquerie. After moving to the West, he wrote one piano piece in the serial tradition and one in the tradition of American experimentalism. Chromatische Phantasie, his single essay in serialism, is less engaging than the works that surround it, but that is perhaps more a function of the limitations of serialism, even in the service of an imagination as fertile as Ligeti's, to express humor or whimsy. Trois Bagatelles (1961) consists of a single short note and is an un-subtle homage to Cage, who reportedly was not amused. The etudes are clearly the work of a composer who has absorbed and personalized a vast range of musical sources. They display the sensitivity to the emotional impact of traditional western harmony that Ligeti had developed so fluently in his youth while transforming the tradition to meet the expressive needs of a composer whose sensibilities had been hugely expanded. The timbral complexities of micropolyphony, which Ligeti developed in the late 1950s and 1960s, are in evidence in some of the densely contrapuntal later etudes. The rhythmic element, however, is the most striking feature of the etudes, and each one develops a specific rhythmic idea. Ligeti had become familiar with the intensely complex polyrhythmic music of Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich's phase processes, and music from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. In the etudes, these disparate influences are fully integrated into the composer's distinctive personal voice. Ullén is a powerful and sensitive interpreter of Ligeti's music. His performances of the earlier works sparkle with rambunctiousness and wit, and he negotiates the ferociously difficult etudes with the kind of clarity and precision that the music demands. In his program notes, he discusses the etudes in terms of their rhythmic structures and that emphasis is evident in his performance. In the more lyrical etudes, such as "Arc-en-Ciel," Ullén is less successful than Pierre-Laurent Aimard in projecting the long, arching line that makes that piece so exquisitely ethereal. In the more rhythmically driven etudes, however, he is precisely on target. This set will be of strong interest to any Ligeti enthusiast or anyone eager to become familiar with some of the twentieth century's most significant and appealing piano music. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 27, 2015 | BMC Records

Booklet
Parts of György Ligeti's Requiem, for female soloists, two choirs, and orchestra, may be the most familiar and recognizable avant-garde music the broad general public has ever heard, thanks to its use on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As wacky as it might seem to anyone who has heard it (which would probably include the vast majority of people with any interest whatsoever in movies), there are ways in which Ligeti's is one of the most traditional requiems of the 20th century, even since the last few decades of the 19th century. That might sound far-fetched for a work in which there is virtually no discernible melody or rhythmic pulse or traditional harmony. Most post-Romantic and Modern requiems have avoided the text's themes of judgment, concentrating on consolatory, redemptive sections, and are usually intended to offer comfort to the living. Ligeti, like most composers up to Brahms, delivers the traditional requiem's juxtaposition of terrifying judgment and the comforting hope of redemption. The third of his four movements sets a text by the Venerable Bede that's essentially a paraphrase of the Dies Irae, and it's a doozy; the composer describes it as "hysterical, hyperdramatic, and unrestrained." Throughout the Requiem, Ligeti uses clouds of sound created by what he describes as micro-polyphony: a densely packed overlay of closely spaced lines whose purpose is to create a variety of textures, the basic building blocks of the composer's music of this period. The two other works on the album, Apparitions and San Francisco Polyphony, are orchestral, and are similar in style and impact to the Requiem. Peter Eötvös leads WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, and SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart in harrowing performances of these fiercely modernist works. The attention to detail even in the most cacophonous sections gives the performances great focus and definition. The orchestra makes a specialty of new music and plays these daunting scores with precision and passion. The choirs are equally distinguished and sing with pure, precise tone. The same can be said for soprano Barbara Hannigan and mezzo-soprano Susan Parry, who negotiate the outrageously demanding, stratospheric lines with assurance and no apparent vocal strain. The sound of the live recordings is clean but atmospheric. The CD comes with a bonus audio-only DVD. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released November 14, 2011 | Warner Classics International

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
"Warner's "Ligeti Project" has an air of déjà-vu: it is an identical version of the 2008 Teldec box set, whose five discs took over from the "Ligeti Edition" left in the lurch by Sony. A half-complete set, therefore, which sweeps through Ligeti's creative career, from Atmosphères to the Requiem (live by the Berliner Philharmoniker and Jonathan Nott), passing through the Adventures, the concertos for piano (Aimard), violin (Zimmermann) or cello (Palm) conducted by De Leeuw. Even without Etudes for piano or Grand Macabre, an ideal passport to discover unheard-of worlds of sound." (Diapason, January 2016)  
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released March 4, 2011 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released October 25, 2013 | Wergo

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Classical - Released December 15, 2009 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released May 19, 1997 | Sony Classical

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Opera - Released October 21, 2011 | Wergo

György Ligeti's only opera, Le Grand Macabre, was initially suggested by film and theater director Göran Gentele who was in 1965 director of the Stockholm Opera. Ligeti and librettist Michael Meschke adapted Belgian author Michel van Ghelderode's 1934 play La balade du grande macabre into the needed libretto and finished the opera in a mere six years. The Wergo CD of the work (there are two; the other is led by Esa-Pekka Salonen on Sony) is not of the first production of Le Grand Macabre but the second, held in the Grossen Konzerthaussaal in Vienna in 1987 under the direction of Elgar Howarth. Le Grand Macabre is a mega-bizarre opera that is part post-modern avant-garde and part Marx Brothers; a mad escapade that calls for sirens, auto horns, and singers who are able to behave like loons, and yet sing up into the stratosphere if necessary. This performance is live and once in awhile you can hear a titter of laughter from the audience. Le Grand Macabre IS funny -- thankfully there is a thick German-English libretto included with the set, so one need not fuss that any of the humor (or horror -- there's a considerable amount of that also) will be missed. A thinner booklet found inside the clamshell case contains the liner notes and track listings. This Grossen Konzerthaussaal performance is as good as can be hoped for in such a difficult work, but that does not mean the music itself is "difficult." Le Grand Macabre isn't tuneful -- it's written in a highly complex, late twentieth century idiom, but with action of the play to hang the music onto it is fairly easy to follow, and is nonetheless very entertaining. Le Grand Macabre isn't staged with much frequency, as it appears to be a rather expensive production. A video or DVD would be the best way, outside the concert hall, to experience it, but in the lack of such a product this rather pricey two-disc set will have to do. If the listener is interested in contemporary European opera after 1950 this should be the first place to go. Wergo's live recording is of excellent quality, but could stand to be a little louder than it is. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 27, 2021 | CAvi-music

Hi-Res Booklet
Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) is probably best known to the public through the use of his music in the iconic Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nevertheless, he is known as “one of the most innovative and influential among progressive figures of his time”, responsible for seminal works which are still regularly performed by today’s greatest artists. Written over a period of more than seventeen years, his Études for piano test a pianist virtuosity to the limit. They combine serene moments of beauty with feats of technical prowess, as can be heard in pieces such as White on White or Arc-en-ciel, where the music rises and falls in arcs that seem to evoke a rainbow. © CAvi-Music
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Classical - Released January 1, 1994 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Classical - Released January 1, 2003 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released April 1, 2003 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released April 26, 2002 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released January 1, 1988 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released January 23, 1998 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released February 16, 2018 | Sheva Collection

Booklet
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Classical - Released January 28, 2013 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)