Sunday, March 09, 2003


Ventured on the Gyorgi Ligeti spiderweb yet? If not, make sure you've got Macromedia loaded and then head straight off to the Ligeti site. You're in for a treat. The whole experience was produced by Illuminations Interactive, now known as Braunarts, and was commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra with funding from The Foundation for Sport and the Arts and Vincent Meyer.

Ligeti is creating perhaps the most significant solo piano cycle in contemporary music at the moment. If you want to dip your toe in, there's an ideal budget opportunity created by the good people at Naxos. Idil Biret performs the 'Etudes for Piano Books I & II' on 8.555777 (2002, £4.99).

The catalogue comments: "As György Ligeti himself describes it, the impetus for '... composing highly virtuosic piano études ... was, above all, my own inadequate piano technique'. Solo piano music is prominent in his output prior to his ‘escape’ to the West in 1956, notably the Musica ricercata cycle completed in 1953, but little emerged during his involvement with the European avant-garde over the next two decades. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, Ligeti rethought all aspects of his composing idiom, resulting in music which might be described as ‘post-tonal’ in its creative and unprejudiced approach to the ‘Classical’ tradition. Among the first fruits of this reassessment was Book I of the piano Etudes, comprising six pieces and completed in 1985. A second book of eight pieces was composed between 1988 and 1994, while a third book was started in 1995. (c) Naxos.

In spite of the composer's own self-deprecation, it has to be said that these pieces demand a high level of technical skill. Turkish-born pianist Biret does a fine job, though she has been accused by some reviewers of smoothing the edges and slowing the tempi a little. This recording still impresses though: and let's face it, it's a bargain.

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