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June 12, 2006

György Ligeti

György Ligeti, composer of numerous choral and chamber works, who fled the shackles of Nazi and Stalinist regimes in his native Hungry to find that his inborn distrust of dogma made the mid-twentieth century's rigid serialism equally unpalatable, has died at the age of 83. He reportedly died in Vienna after a long illness.

Born in 1923 into a Jewish family in Transylvania, Ligeti undertook conservatory studies with Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas in 1941 at the ripe age of 18, but had his studies interrupted in 1944 when he was sent into the Nazi labor camps. At the same time his parents, brother and other relatives were sent to Auschwitz; only his mother survived.

He resumed studies at the Budapest Academy of Music, Franz Liszt Academy, in 1945, and graduated in 1949. Ligeti returned the following year as an instructor in harmony and counterpoint, but the 1948 appropriation of Hungary as a communist state — and the resultant cultural stagnation — forced Ligeti to turn out largely traditional choral repertoire culled from folk melodies. Ligeti fled Budapest in December 1956 for Vienna, and then Cologne, where he would absorb the new techniques and ideas of the European avant-garde

Ligeti coined the term "micropolyphony," his expressed musical philosophy, by which dense and complex melodic lines manifest themselves as dissonant chords moving at subtly different speeds. The resultant otherworldly harmonies, which spurned sudden change for an amorphous blurring and merging of sounds, was put to use in his Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Mixed Choir, and Orchestra and his Lux Aeterna — both of which Stanley Kubrick would later use on the soundtrack to his film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Throughout the '70s Ligeti's work increasingly focused on rhythmic, as well as melodic and harmonic, variation, as evidenced in works such as Continuum and Clocks and Clouds. In addition, the decade found Ligeti increasingly interested in ethnomusicological sources, particularly African music.

Posted by acapnews at June 12, 2006 9:47 PM