Boulez conducts Ligeti

Author: 
Arnold Whittall

Boulez conducts Ligeti

  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

Sony Classical were first in the field with a recording of Ligeti's Piano Concerto, but DG have secured the greater prize of the still more recent Violin Concerto (1992).
This is music by a composer fascinated with Shakespeare's The Tempest: indeed, it might even prove to be a substitute for Ligeti's long-mooted operatic version of the play. There are plenty of ''strange noises'', the result not just of Ligeti's latter-day predilection for ocarinas, but of his remarkable ability to play off natural and artificial tunings against each other. This work is superior to the Piano Concerto because the solo violin is so much more volatile and poetic as a protagonist, an animator who 'fires up' the orchestra while functioning, in places at least, as an alien presence, a leader at odds with the led.
The five-movement structure also seems to me more successful, more cogent in its balance of contrasts, than that of the Piano Concerto, the only possible complaint concerning the relatively conventional cadenza, apparently put together by Saschko Gawriloff. He is, undeniably, a brilliantly effective soloist, and well served by a sharply defined yet expressive accompaniment—Boulez at his most incisive—and a totally convincing recording.
The other works are played and recorded with similar success. The Cello Concerto (1966) is a particularly powerful reminder of the strengths of the earlier Ligeti, where elementally simple, basic elements generate anything but minimal consequences. Despite the virtues of the Sony Classical versions of the Cello and Piano Concertos, the Violin Concerto gives DG the advantage: it's a major work, and a marvellous demonstration of Ligeti's unique, and uniquely persuasive, angle on modern musical discourse.'

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