György Ligeti (1923 - 2006) - Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures

Recorded Live on 25th February 2008. Duration: 23 minutes 37 seconds

Like characters in a Beckett play, the dramatis personae of Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures are terrified by silence and emptiness, and so they find little activities to fill up their time. They tell each other stories; they exchange confidences; they play games. And because they are musicians, their narratives are operatic and their pastimes musical. Because, too, they are human, their ploys are only temporarily convincing - to themselves or to us. Either they rush from one episode straight into another, or else the enemy silence descends and they 'remain as if turned to stone,' as the common stage direction has it. They are alive only when they are making a noise: silence alarms and embarrasses them, and they stop - or else silence simply turns them off, as if they were machines, toys. To be immured in silence, to be stilled, is to be dead. At one point, though, they are allowed to expect something from beyond silence, and to have their expectation gratified. Towards the end of the first movement of Nouvelles aventures the contralto and baritone sing a unison E flat, and then all three singers 'wait, rigid and listening, for an echo from the far distance'. When it comes, as a soft horn tone, they are pleased; when it is repeated, by other instruments, they are astonished.

This is, in a very characteristically Ligetian manner, both touching and comic. The three singers on stage are three people alone in their little universe, unaware of their accompanying instrumentalists (so that a horn sound can be a voice from the unknown) and unaware of their audience: they lack the confident reciprocity of performers within a shared tradition, and in that lack - which is actualised in a different way by their lack of words - they place themselves at a moment of crisis in western musical culture. But their ignorance is also the ignorance of children - the ignorance and the innocence, as they carry on their pre-verbal babble. And of course they give us an image of ourselves: as children, as alone, as engaging in meaningless activities (such as music) in order to protect ourselves from nothingness, as trusting with frail hope in something beyond.

Paul Griffiths © 2008

Nicholas Kok Conductor
Jane Manning Soprano
Jessica Walker Mezzo-Soprano
Dean Robinson Bass

Conrad Marshall Flute
Rebecca Goldberg Horn
Richard Casey piano
Ian Buckle Harpsichord/piano
Tim Williams Percussion
Jennifer Langridge Cello
Jeffrey Box Double Bass

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