György Ligeti: Requiem; Apparitions; San Francisco Polyphony

György Ligeti: Requiem; Apparitions; San Francisco Polyphony

by Péter EötvösPéter Eötvös


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Parts of György Ligeti's "Requiem, for female soloists, two choirs, and orchestra," may be the most familiar and recognizable avant-garde music the broad general public has ever heard, thanks to its use on the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As wacky as it might seem to anyone who has heard it (which would probably include the vast majority of people with any interest whatsoever in movies), there are ways in which Ligeti's is one of the most traditional requiems of the 20th century, even since the last few decades of the 19th century. That might sound far-fetched for a work in which there is virtually no discernible melody or rhythmic pulse or traditional harmony. Most post-Romantic and Modern requiems have avoided the text's themes of judgment, concentrating on consolatory, redemptive sections, and are usually intended to offer comfort to the living. Ligeti, like most composers up to Brahms, delivers the traditional requiem's juxtaposition of terrifying judgment and the comforting hope of redemption. The third of his four movements sets a text by the Venerable Bede that's essentially a paraphrase of the Dies Irae, and it's a doozy; the composer describes it as "hysterical, hyperdramatic, and unrestrained." Throughout the "Requiem," Ligeti uses clouds of sound created by what he describes as micro-polyphony: a densely packed overlay of closely spaced lines whose purpose is to create a variety of textures, the basic building blocks of the composer's music of this period. The two other works on the album, "Apparitions" and "San Francisco Polyphony," are orchestral, and are similar in style and impact to the "Requiem." Peter Eötvös leads WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, and SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart in harrowing performances of these fiercely modernist works. The attention to detail even in the most cacophonous sections gives the performances great focus and definition. The orchestra makes a specialty of new music and plays these daunting scores with precision and passion. The choirs are equally distinguished and sing with pure, precise tone. The same can be said for soprano Barbara Hannigan and mezzo-soprano Susan Parry, who negotiate the outrageously demanding, stratospheric lines with assurance and no apparent vocal strain. The sound of the live recordings is clean but atmospheric. The CD comes with a bonus audio-only DVD.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/11/2012
Label: Budapest Music
UPC: 5998309301667
catalogNumber: 166
Rank: 113970


  1. Apparitions, for orchestra

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