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GYORGY LIGETI DEAD AT 83

 

 

Staff Report

VIENNA, 12 June 2006— Austrian-Hungarian composer György Ligeti died in Vienna this morning at the age of 83 after suffering from a serious illness. His oeuvre embraces  everything from Romanian folk music and the tonal language of his fellow countryman BĂ©la BartĂłk  to pieces of the avant-garde. For the general public, however, Ligeti's best-known works are the compositions included in the soundtracks of 2001: A Space Odyssey  (Atmospheres,  Requiem, Lux aeterna) , The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut (Musica Ricercata II ), three films by the late director Stanley Kubrick.

Gyorgy Ligeti, who was born to Hungarian Jewish parents in Romania's Dicsöszentmárton, Transylvania, on May 28, 1923, studied music in Kolozsvár and Budapest and became a professor at the Budapest Academy in 1950. When, in 1956, the Soviet army quelled the Hungarian Revolution, Ligeti escaped to Austria (of which he eventually became a citizen). His arrival in Vienna late in 1956 therefore provided him with fresh opportunities. He was introduced to key figures in the avant-garde of western European music, notably Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gottfried Michael Koenig and Herbert Eimert. Eimert invited Ligeti to join the Electronic Music Studio of Westdeutscher Rundkfunk (West German Radio) in Cologne in 1957, and there Ligeti had the freedom to develop his style, consolidating musical ideas that had begun to emerge in his scores as early as the late 1940s. His electronic composition Artikulation (1958) and the orchestral Apparitions (1958-59), the first pieces in the mature style, attracted critical attention, and the premiere of Apparitions at the ISCM.  Apparitions, a piece that features his original tone cluster technique, established his reputation.  Atmospheres, a subsequent piece featured in the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was written with a technique called "micropolyphony." In the later 60s Ligeti injected a renewed contrapuntal complexity into his work, beginning with Requiem (1963-65) and Lux aeterna (1966). As one of the first proponents of minimalism in later decades, Ligeti composed the avant-garde opera Le Grand Macabre  inspired by the theatre of the absurd and a group of pieces with strongly delineated polyrhythms.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Ligeti expanded his musical horizons again, incorporating structural principles of African drumming music into his works: the fanatic of the intricate developed new complex polyrhythmic techniques. They form the basis of the 3 collections of his Études pour piano which are considered to be the most important piano music of the end of the 20th century.

The composer was awarded the German decoration "Pour le mérit" and the Bach Prize of the City of Hamburg in 1975. In 1986 he received the Grawemeyer Prize and in 1996 he was awarded the Music Prize of the International Music Council. Gyorgy Ligeti was awarded the 2001 Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy.

Related: CD Reviews of Music by György Ligeti 

Photo courtesy of Schott Music



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