György Ligeti


1923 — 2006
An Austrian composer of Hungarian extraction, Ligeti was born in Transylvania in 1923. He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy between 1945 and 1949 and taught there from 1950 to 1956, having in the meantime undertaken field research into Romanian folk music. He left his native Hungary in 1956 and travelled to Vienna, where he met leading figures of the avant-garde, including Herbert Eimert, who invited him to join him at his Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne. He first found his distinctive voice as a composer in the late 1950s and early 1960s with such works as Apparitions and Atmosphères, both scored for large orchestra. He turned his back on pure electronic music and also distanced himself from the serialism espoused by many of his contemporaries. Eschewing distinct pitches and intervals as the basis of his music, he concentrated on timbre, duration, density, and compass, creating a slow and static-seeming language of exceptional sensitivity and nuance that places him at the forefront of the musical avant-garde. His most important works are Lontano for orchestra, Ramifications for Strings, and, together with a number of concertos for cello and instrumental ensemble, Aventures and Nouvelles aventures, the last of which describes "the fantastical vicissitudes of imaginary characters on an imaginary stage." His opera Le grand macabre reveals his love of the fantastical and the absurd.