The last, and least, of the Ligeti Project
Christopher Culver | 09/28/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"LIGETI PROJECT V marks the end of the collection--first started by Sony's "Gyorgy Ligeti Edition"--of Gyorgy Ligeti's works in performances overseen by the composer himself. This final installment contains new renditions of some material that has appeared before in the collection, as well as several early works, all performed as usual by the Asko and Schoenberg ensembles. I found it to be somewhat disappointing for what is present, since a lot of this has appeared before in only slightly different form, and even for for what was *not* included.
"Aventures" and "Nouvelles Aventures" are an evolution beyond Ligeti's early vocal works. Ligeti no longer uses a specific text to express emotion, instead inventing his own universal language. Though the words the singers are singing (written with IPA in the score) 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. The baritone, Omar Ebrahim, may be familiar to some from his spoken-word performance in Peter Eotvos' "Sketches of a conversation". These two pieces have appeared before on "Gyorgy Ligeti Edition 4: Vocal Works", but this is a live recording and apparently it creates such a different ambience that the pieces are worth including again.
"Artikulation" is one of Ligeti's three forays into electronic music, composed in Cologne in 1958 after Ligeti had fled Hungary. The piece was realised under the patronship of Karlheinz Stockhausen and a young Cornelius Cardew, who would later go on to become England's first Maoist composer, served as recording engineer. This is the original recording from 1958, but it has been down-mixed from quadraphonic to stereo. It's interesting listening, though I would have liked to see the project try to create a new "performance."
I was eagerly awaiting the appearance of "Sonata for Cello Solo." It is one of Ligeti's earliest works, with a first Dialogo composed while he was a student at the conservatory in Cluj. It is one of the most beautiful things Ligeti has ever done. A Capriccio followed five years later, and foretells Ligeti's avant-garde string works. This forms, I think, the best piece on this disc. David Gerinas' performance is great, but check out the recent reissue on DG as well.
"Musica Ricercata", originally a piano sequence written in the 1950's, appears here in an arrangement by instrumentalist May Bonnay for bayan, a type of Russian accordian for which Sofia Gubaidulina also has composed. Only eight pieces from the original work are represented, "Mesto, rigide e cerimoniale" would be, I suppose, too challenging for an accordian arrangement. "Musica Ricercata" would have been just fine had Ligeti not gone on to write his stunning Piano Etudes, but I find the piece to be rather uninventive and this bayan arrangement unappealing.
"The Big Turtle Fanfare from the South China Sea" is a short (45-second) piece for solo trumpet, part of the score Ligeti had composed for a puppet opera in the early 1950's. It is merely a cute curiosity and adds little to the disc.
"Balada Si Joc" dates from Ligeti's brief return to his native Transylvania in 1950 for ethnomusical studies. Faux folk music, it contains much of the same material as "Concert Romanesc". The piece has appeared before on "Gyorgy Ligeti Edition 1: String Quartets and Duets", but the arrangement here is for school orchestra and sounds much richer and fuller.
I don't even know what to say about ""Regi Magyar Tarsas Tancok" (Old Hungarian Ballroom Dances). They are not even Ligeti's own work, but rather arrangements by him of the schmaltzy dancehall hits of the Biedermeier period (around 1800). This music is so very dull, not something I want to hear on a disc with Ligeti's name on it. Coming last, it leaves one with a bad impression of this final installment.
All in all, I'm unhappy that the series is over. There are still works yet to be collected, such as his electronic piece "Glissandi" supressed as juvenalia, Book Three of his Piano Etudes, and the variant arrangement of "Ramifications". Still, the entire Ligeti Project series is worth collecting (as is the earlier Gyorgy Ligeti Edition on Sony). The one gets a two-star rating mostly because of the lackluster ballroom dances and the missing Etudes, and the one thing that really saves it is the "Cello Sonata" and "Artikulation". Pick it up after you've got all the others."
Not exactly what we were hoping for
Michael Schell | www.schellsburg.com | 12/10/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I share Christopher Culver and Andrew Buckner's frustration about the contents of this, the last in the combined series of Sony Ligeti Edition and Teldec Ligeti Project CDs. The lack of the last three piano etudes from Book 3 (those not recorded on LE3) has been noted. Given that the recordings for Teldec's Ligeti Project extended into November 2002, whereas Ligeti stopped composing in roughly 2001, this is a head-scratcher. Also missing are the Three Bagatelles written for David Tudor in 1961, and a work of juvenilia called Chromatic Fantasy that Ligeti later withdrew. For these works, you'll need something like Fredrik Ullén's album of Ligeti's complete piano music. Furthermore, we lack the string orchestra version of Ramifications (though you do get the version for 12 solo strings on LP4), and the tape piece Glissandi from 1957 (which may have been withdrawn by the composer, but is still available on an old Wergo recording). A third sort tape piece, simply called Pièce Électronique No. 3, was sketched in 1958, but not realized until a 1996 residency in the Netherlands. Also nice to have would have been the original German version of Le Grand Macabre, which you might be able to track down from another Wergo recording. A single-LP edition from Wergo condensed the opera to half its length, a concise and very enjoyable version, but one not currently available on CD as far as I can tell.
Despite that disappointment, there're things to be glad for here. I do like these performances of Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures. The dynamic range and humor come out quite well, and the singing seems quite precise. Though I don't have a score available to me as I listen to this, I can at least tell that they're hitting their pitches when the instruments subsequently double them. I slightly prefer Salonen's recordings on LE4 (for reasons I give in my review of that album), but the ones here aren't at all bad, generally a little faster and a little more expressively exaggerated than those on LE4. Personally, I didn't completely understand these pieces until I saw them in a concert staging, but if your only exposure to Aventures/Nouvelles Aventures is through this CD, then you'll be served pretty well. You might think of this as a chamber opera written in an imaginary language where you get to choose the meaning of the words.
The CD also has the early tape piece Artikulation, for which your only other option in North America at present is the Wergo recording, which also has Ligeti's other completed tape piece Glissandi. Just as Ligeti's Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes lacks the sophistication of Xenakis's stochastic music or Cage's chance music, so does Artikulation suffer in comparison to early electroacoustic masterworks such as Déserts or Kontakte. Nevertheless, both Poème and Artikulation were vital links in Ligeti's development, and this two-track mixdown of Artikulation's original four tracks will help ensure that it stays available to us in the digital age.
Others have commented on the early cello sonata, of which the second movement adumbrates the "process music" that Ligeti was to explore after fleeing Hungary in 1956. The rest of the CD is of minor interest, chiefly devoted to yet another arrangement of the early Musica Ricercata collection, even though that work is already captured on LE3 (original version for piano), LE5 (barrel organ), LE6 (pipe organ, 1 piece) and LE7 (wind quintet, 6 pieces). It's a pity that we don't get the missing piano works and tape pieces, or the full string orchestra version of Ramifications. But I guess those would have been more expensive than a studio date with a single Russian accordionist.
To sum up, this CD is mainly for the completists among us. If you plan to get the Ligeti Project CDs, you should probably just go with the box set of all five and get the discount. If an especially good deal presents itself, maybe on a used copy, go for it. Otherwise, those picking and choosing among the Sony and Teldec CDs should probably relegate this to the bottom of their list."
Odds and ends
Vanilor | Colorado | 07/26/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As the other reviewer mentions, this CD is the last of the Ligeti Project and collects several miscellaneous works and arrangements (with a wide variety of performers as well). I would've much rather seen a new work on here, rather than the 20 minutes spent on Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures again - nevertheless, it's a good performance of a bizarre 'vocal' work sure to have you laughing out loud. The Sonata for Cello Solo is excellent, and contrary to the other reviewer, I find the ballroom dances delightful. Artikulation for tape is short and curious. It's nothing on Xenakis.
This certainly isn't a bad CD, it just isn't nearly as good as some of the other volumes. I'd get it just because I'm a completist - but I wouldn't regret buying it, either."