Artifice and nature
Clocks & Clouds: music of Ligeti Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Friday 21 February 1997
One sign of this is the way his works make equal sense either programmed by themselves or alongside standard repertoire. Wednesday's main concert at the QEH featured his recent Violin Concerto with the Mother Goose suite by Ravel and the Music for Strings by Bartok, composers for whom the ideas of artifice and nature implied in the titular "Clocks and Clouds" of the SBC's Ligeti festival were no less valid. Just as intriguing, however, was an early evening recital devoted to Ligeti alone. Sibylle Ehlert, a stratospheric soprano with a strongly theatrical bent, sang Mysteries of the Macabre, the UK premiere of a reworking of scenes from Ligeti's first opera. Before that, Pierre-Laurent Aimard played a selection of Ligeti's piano Etudes. After Debussy's, they are the finest to be written this century; and, dare it be said, Ligeti's are, perhaps, played rather more often.
Indeed, the Etudes began the evening by going to the heart of the matter. Sometimes diaphanous, at other times sinuous, they are shaped, paradoxically, both by the composer's inability as a pianist and by the actual grip of fingers on a keyboard. Coupled with Ligeti's power to quicken a technical process with sounding musical logic in its note-to-note succession, yielding a richly expressive dividend, their manner penetrated the essence of his art. Some of them were illustrative: Fanfares and Arc-en-ciel, and the rather Lisztian Automne a Varsovie. A typical pattern, found in the famous Desordre, was both formal and suggestive; having manically crashed its way to both ends of the keyboard, the music stopped in mid air, as if suddenly impatient with the feeble limits of human endeavour.
There was a similar gesture concluding the Intermezzo of the Violin Concerto, the third of five movements which, on paper, had a suite-like appearance, yet which showed in performance a steady growth from a whimsical opening to a passacaglia of brooding intensity. Like much of Ligeti's recent music, the concerto deftly combines his modernist interests, in unusual tunings, for example, as in the nebulous Ramifications heard after the interval, with reconstructions of a canonic and ethnic past. To the tremulous sound of four ocarinas, soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann span a violin tune of utmost serenity in the medieval-styled second movement. Come the finale, he was pitched by feuding polyrhythms into battle royal with his fellow violinists. The cadenza, when it came, was surprising yet inevitable, an event you might have predicted but never imagined.
Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted with an insider's knowledge of every telling detail. The Philharmonia's sound was embracing yet intimate, boosted by the pleasant acoustic of the hall itself, but chiefly on account of the polish and command of their solo and ensemble playing. Last concert: 7.45 tomorrow, QEH, SBC (0171-960 4242)
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Winnie the Pooh banned from Polish playground for being 'inappropriate hermaphrodite'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'