BBC Music Magazine - - CONCERTO -

Cello Con­certo; Cham­ber Con­certo for 13 In­stru­ments; Melo­dien for orches­tra; Pi­ano Con­certo

Chris­tian Poltéra (cello),

Joonas Aho­nen (pi­ano); BIT20 Ensem­ble/bal­dur Brön­ni­mann

BIS BIS-2209 (hy­brid CD/SACD) 71:30 mins

Hard on the heels of the disc by

Les Siè­cles (see March is­sue, p92), comes another fine all-ligeti CD, again in­clud­ing the Cham­ber Con­certo of 1969-70. The main fo­cus here is on Ligeti’s ac­tiv­ity as a con­certo com­poser, and only Melo­dien – de­scribed by him as ‘iri­des­cent and metal­lic mu­sic with ce­lesta, glock­en­spiel and cro­tales

What comes across in all this mu­sic is Ligeti’s unerring ear for colour

colour­ing it as though with gold dust’ – falls out­side this cat­e­gory. The Cello Con­certo of 1966 is al­most an anti-con­certo, inas­much as the soloist’s part is very dis­creet: the ini­tial cello en­try car­ries the sur­real dy­namic mark­ing of pppppppp, and even the ca­denza near the work’s close – splen­didly han­dled by Chris­tian Poltéra – is played in a whis­per.

More up­front is the Pi­ano Con­certo, writ­ten some 20 years later. The fore­most in­ter­preter of this daz­zling piece has been Pier­re­lau­rent Ai­mard, who has recorded it twice, but Joonas Aho­nen is no less well on top of the stag­ger­ingly de­mand­ing pi­ano part – much of it a sort of off­shoot of Ligeti’s solo pi­ano Etudes. This is pre­dom­i­nantly fast and even jazzy mu­sic, though it in­cludes a des­o­late slow move­ment fea­tur­ing the haunt­ing sounds of oca­rina and swa­nee whis­tle.

Both the Cham­ber Con­certo and the Pi­ano Con­certo con­tain a move­ment built on out-of­phase rapid re­peated notes, like a me­chan­i­cal in­stru­ment in the throes of a break­down. But be­yond this ma­chine-like side of Ligeti’s per­sona, what comes across in all this mu­sic is his unerring ear for colour and har­mony.

The per­for­mances by Bal­dur Brön­ni­mann and the Nor­we­gian BIT20 Ensem­ble are bril­liant through­out. An in­dis­pens­able disc.

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