BAGATELLES – DIVERGENT EQUIVALENTS
Ligeti and Beethoven „mixed“ as two masters of the miniature form
The gate opens. The music should sound solemn and magnificent, like an overture: majestic, like Beethoven’s Eroica. That is how Hungarian composer György Ligeti begins Musica ricercata, one of his early works from the early 1950s. In exemplary fashion, the cycle blends minimalist structures with a sumptuous array of colors. Behind each note lurks the exigency that nothing should escape the pianist’s attention: he should be aware of all that takes place in the present, while remaining prepared for everything that can occur in the next moment. Such challenges await the performer in Ligeti as well as in Beethoven.
Long before he thought of coupling the works by Beethoven and Ligeti on CD, Herbert Schuch had tried out the combination in the concert hall. “I quickly get a feel whether a programme works well, or whether it’s just something I’ve conceived in my head. Of course I was aware that these cycles were never intended to be picked apart. I find it important to feel assured that I’m not undermining their essence, and that the new order also makes sense. Such a coupling would certainly not work in the case of a sonata.” (excerpt from the Booklet notes/Interview)
György Ligeti is considered as one of the most important representatives of the postwar avant garde, next to Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luciana Berio and Iannis Xenakis. While the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Oddyssey created publicity for Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra in particular, most of the impressive music comes from Ligeti's Atmosphères and his Requiem. Ligeti's somber sounds could also be applied to happier things: in his obscene and death-defying opera Le Grand Macabre he would mock the horroreffects of experimental music in a hilarious manner.
Ligeti's maniac experiments often exceeded the human measure (think of his virtuoso Etudes for piano). Perhaps his most consequent work is the purely mechanic Poème Symphonique for 100 ticking metronomes. Legend goes that its première was recorded only to be archived with the note: never to be broadcasted again!