György Ligeti (1923-2006) - Chamber Concerto

Recorded live on 12th February 2009. Duration: 19 minutes

György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Chamber Concerto
I. Corrente
II. Calmo, sostenuto
III. Movimento preciso e meccanico
IV. Presto

Composed in 1969-70, this piece helped make the ensemble of soloists a standard line-up for new music, though Ligeti's treatment has had few equals in terms of fantasy and delightfulness. It begins with the instruments moving within a narrow range, sliding in register, until suddenly the whole pitch space is opened up by the arrival of piled octaves. Their pure sound is soon muddied, and wonderful confusion resumes: at one point the wind instruments start to sing a massively amplified folktune. Finally the music explodes into dispersed melody, only to be clamped again. 'My general idea for this movement', Ligeti has remarked, 'was the surface of a stretch of water, where everything takes place below the surface.'

The second movement takes a different route through dense chords, jostling movements and strains of melody sounding like echoes of folksong or Romantic music, such as are played by a plaintive trio of horn, oboe d'amore and trombone. After a fortissimo climax, something absolutely inevitable and yet totally unexpected turns up around the corner: a tritone sounding quietly in octaves. From this develops a second part of the movement, which beautifully disintegrates …

… to be replaced by an extraordinary musical machine, a disconnected chirruping of regular rhythms from different odd ensembles. The presto finale continues the mechanical feeling a little, but the twitterings are now rustlings that develop and echo through clusters, single intervals and arpeggios, and that race around the small orchestra in a perpetuum mobile of great virtuosity. Once again, as in the first and second movements, one way out of the maze appears to be through melody, and a line starts out on the horn, most positive of instruments. But the melody quickly begins to lose its distinctiveness, and the perpetual motion continues until another tritone, like a single light of gathering intensity, begins to shine through the texture and freeze the music, leaving only disjointed echoes.

Notes by Paul Griffiths © 2009

Nicholas Kok conductor

Conrad Marshall flute
Rachael Clegg oboe
Dov Goldberg clarinet
Colin Pownall clarinet
Rebecca Goldberg french horn
Phil Goodwin trombone
Paul Janes piano/celesta
Richard Casey harpsichord
David Routledge violin
Martin Clark violin 2
Raymond Lester viola
Jennifer Langridge cello
Anita Langridge double bass

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