LIGETI 100: PIANO & WIND

Ensemble 360

Upper Chapel, Sheffield
Saturday 30 September 2023, 7.00pm

Tickets:
£21
£14 UC, PIP & DLA
£5 Students & Under 35s

Past Event

DORTI Duo Concertante (13′) 
LIGETI Selection of Etudes (c.12′) 
LUTOSŁAWSKI Dance Preludes for Clarinet and Piano (12′)
FARKAS Five Antique Hungarian Dances (16′) 
LIGETI Ten Pieces (13′) 

An evening of music for piano and wind celebrating the works of György Ligeti, one of the most innovative and influential composers of the late 20th century.  

Ligeti’s celebrated Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet and a selection of his mesmerising studies for piano are among the highlights of this concert celebrating the 100th birthday of this ground-breaking composer. Other works to feature include dances by Ligeti’s teacher, Farkas, and a breathtaking duo by Doráti, who conducted several premieres of Ligeti’s most famous works. 

DORÁTI Antal, Duo Concertante for oboe and piano

Antal Doráti’s long and distinguished conducting career has tended to overshadow his work as a composer. As a brilliantly gifted teenager, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest at the age of fourteen and from the start, his musical development was in the best possible hands: his composition teachers included Zoltán Kodály and his piano teacher was Béla Bartók. After graduating from the Academy in 1924, he joined the music staff at the Budapest Opera, making his conducting debut the same year.  

Notable later orchestral appointments included posts with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His numerous recordings included a pioneering set of the complete Haydn symphonies, made for Decca with the Philharmonia Hungarica. 

Doráti also found time to compose a number of pieces, ranging from an opera (The Chosen) to orchestral works (including a symphony) and the present Duo concertante for oboe and piano, completed in 1984 and dedicated to the great Swiss oboist Heinz Holliger who gave the first performance in Washington, D.C. on 21 April 1984 with the pianist Karl Ritter. A modern re-interpretation of a Hungarian rhapsody, the structure draws on traditional Hungarian dance forms, opening with a slow lassú and following this with a friss – a quick movement marked molto vivace 

© Nigel Simeone 

LIGETI György, Études for piano

Ligeti composed a series of 18 études for solo piano between 1985 and 2001, published in three books. When they first became known, these pieces were hailed as instant classics of the twentieth-century piano repertoire, and also provided a remarkable climax to Ligeti’s composing career. Following in the tradition of Chopin, Liszt and Debussy, these pieces pose tremendous technical challenges while also resulting in brilliant musical miniatures, whether dazzling or poetic. Ligeti himself wrote that he imagined in the Études ‘highly emotive music of high contrapuntal and metrical complexity, with labyrinthine branches and perceptible melodic forms … not tonal, but not atonal either.’  

 

They are dedicated to various important exponents of contemporary music, ranging from the composers Pierre Boulez and György Kurtág, to the pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Volker Banfield. Described by critic Andrew Clements as ‘the most important additions to the solo-piano repertoire in the last half-century’, one remarkable feature is the way in which, as Clements put is, ‘in the Études, Ligeti effectively created a new pianistic vocabulary’. The influences described by Ligeti on these works included medieval and Renaissance music, African polyphony, Latin-American dances, Balinese gamelan, jazz pianists including Bill Evans and Thelonius Monk and the folk music of Ligeti’s native Hungary. But all of these are subsumed into a language that is entirely Ligeti’s own, with the most exhilarating results. 

 

© Nigel Simeone 

LUTOSŁAWKSI Witold, Dance Preludes

Allegro molto
Andantino
Allegro giocoso
Andante
Allegro molto

In 1954, Witold Lutosławski wrote his five Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano, based on folk tunes from Northern Poland, describing them as his ‘farewell to folk music’. In 1959 he recast the pieces for the Czech Nonet – comprising wind quintet, violin, viola, cello and double bass – in which he makes one significant change: no longer is the clarinet the soloist, but the thematic material is shared between the whole ensemble. Lutosławski’s biographer Charles Bodman Rae has described the way the composer transforms the folk tunes, and generates the propulsive energy in the faster movements: ‘Superimposition of different metres is the main feature of these pieces, resulting in metrical and rhythmic contradictions. This technique is most noticeable in the first, third and fifth pieces and invests them with much of their rhythmic vitality.’

This Nonet version of the Dance Preludes was first performed by the Czech Nonet at a concert in Louny, 40 miles northwest of Prague, on 10 November 1959.

Nigel Simeone 2013

FARKAS Ferenc, Five Antique Hungarian Dances (version for wind quintet)

Intrada 
Lassú (Slow Dance) 
Lapockás tánc (Shoulder Blade Dance) 
Chorea hungaricae 
Ugrós (Leaping Dance) 
 

Ferenc Farkas studied with Leo Weiner at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and later with Ottorino Respighi in Rome. On returning to Budapest in 1932, one of his first commissions was for a film score and he went on to compose extensively for film and theatre productions. At the same time, he began researching Hungarian folk music and began a distinguished teaching career: his pupils included Ligeti and Kurtág. 

 

This work, officially titled Antique Hungarian Dances from the 17th Century, exists in versions for various solo instruments and ensembles, with the present wind quintet version dating from 1959. In a note on the work, Farkas himself wrote that ‘compared with the rich folk-song heritage of Hungary, our ancient airs and dances that have been preserved in writing have a more modest role. For this work I have been influenced by dances of the 17th century, written by unknown amateurs in a relatively simple style … My interest in this music was first captured in the 1940s. I was so fascinated that I decided to give these melodies new life. I fitted the little dances together, in rondo form, and leaning on Baroque harmony and counterpoint, I attempted a reminiscence of that atmosphere of provincial Hungarian life at the time.’ 

 

© Nigel Simeone 

LIGETI György, Ten Pieces

Ligeti composed his Ten Pieces between August and December 1968. He said that his first idea was ‘to compose a virtuoso work … to bring out the individual character of the five very different instruments available to me. My first idea was to write five short virtuoso pieces, but as I was working on the sketches, I began to sense that this didn’t work in formal terms … It made more sense to have ensemble pieces contrast with virtuoso pieces, in order to supply points of repose. It was thus that the final form came about: ten pieces with a regular alternation of ensemble pieces and virtuoso pieces.’ 

 

The first performance was given on 20 January 1969 in Malmö, Sweden, played by the Wind Quintet of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. Each piece is short – the first, marked Molto sostenuto e calmo is one of the longer movements, lasting just over two minutes, while the fourth, fifth and sixth, all very fast, last less than a minute each. In his biography of Ligeti, British composer Richard Steinitz has described the Ten Pieces as ‘both accessible and delightfully characteristic of their composer … The style is intentionally kaleidoscopic’ (likened by Ligeti himself to Tom and Jerry cartoons), and ‘the music is quirky, epigrammatic and comic.’ 

 

© Nigel Simeone