Daniel Johnson | 08/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many composers have tried to make a career out of being outrageous, but perhaps only Ligeti has really made it work. The first two tracks on this disc, Volumina and Organ Study No. 1 ("Harmonies"), perform the ridiculous feat of applying the avant-garde concept of 'extended' instrumental techniques to the pipe organ--with thrilling results.The next three tracks, Three Pieces for Two Pianos, demonstrate the minimalist influence which crept into his composition--most notably in the middle movement, the "Self-Portrait with Reich and Riley (and with Chopin in the Background)," though really all three seem to demonstrate some kind of 'gradual process'--combining his strident complexity and intensity with a strident tendency toward repetition. And yet, it's never less than enjoyable.The piece ends with three somewhat operatic works: the absurd Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures for voices (without words) and ensemble, and the Mysteries of the Macabre, a thrilling arrangement (for trumpet and piano) of music from his opera Le Grand Macabre. I'll confess that the lunatic drama of the various "Aventures" may be a bit too extreme even for me, but I appreciate their experimental spirit and bizarre sense of humor. And of course, I doubt that there could be any more qualified interpreters of the Aventures than Boulez and his Ensemble Intercontemporain. I recommend this CD to those who would like their stereos to emit some very, very strange noises once in a while."
Minor, but okay pieces, unsatisfying performances
Christopher Culver | 05/01/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"AVENTURES is the first of Deutsche Grammaphon's recent reissues of works by Gyorgy Ligeti in its "Echo 20/21" series. Ligeti is among the greatest of contemporary composers, but this disc does not contain the most noteworthy portions of his oeuvre."Volumina" (1961/62), which opens the disc, is Ligeti's first piece for organ. Beginning slowly, the piece takes some time to pick up (and become decently audible), but eventually shows some energy and an instability characteristic of Ligeti's keyboard works. "Organ Study No. 1 'Harmonies'" (1967) follows, and shows a remarkable contrast, for unlike "Volumina" it is not wispy and insubstantial, but boldly presents a series of shifting harmonies. It is closely linked to the composer's "Lontano" for orchestra of the same era."Three Pieces for Two Pianos" I find to be less interesting than his other piano works, namely "Musica Ricercata" and his Piano Etudes. The opening "Monument" shows the cooperation of two pianos in terms of the dissonance they create. "Selbstportrait" is an homage to minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich, whose work Ligeti discovered in the early 1970's. However, I don't find the pace of these performances very agreeable and would recommend hearing them on Gyorgy Ligeti Edition 3: "Works for Piano", where they are performed by Ligeti's favourite pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard with Irina Kataeva."Aventures" and "Nouvelles Aventures" are a total evolution beyond Ligeti's early vocal works. Before fleeing fromn Hungary his vocal works were mainly based on Hungarian poetry or folk music, and his masterpiece "Requiem" is the traditional Latin mass for the dead, though set in a very modern way. With these two works, however, Ligeti no longer uses a specific text to express emotion and invents his own universal language. Though the words the singers are singing are nonsensical, the basic emotions come through quite clearly in this drama. As fascinating as the experiment is, however, it is somewhat frustrating to simply listen to a recording, as the visual element is lost.Finally, "Mysteries of the Macabre" is a light-hearted except from Ligeti's bizzare opera "Le Grande Macabre", set for chamber orchestra. The version here uses a trumpet in place of coloratura soprano, which I think will seem lackluster to anyone who has heard Sibylle Ehlert's thrilling vocal rendition on Gyorgy Ligeti Edition 4: "Vocal Works".I've found DG's Ligeti reissues to have a much clearer sound than recent recordings from Sony's "Gyorgy Ligeti Edition" and Teldec's "The Ligeti Project". Those series, however can claim the advantage of portraying Ligeti's hand-picked performers and conductors. I think that anyone looking for an introduction to Ligeti should look towards those series, while the DG reissues are better for established Ligeti fans looking for historical recordings."