A sound like a laser beam cutting through a piece of steel. Actually, it is a cello. A microscopic pulsation – vibrato. A post-modern trip into the world of nano-science? No, of course not. This is a music blog, surreal at times, no doubt, but today’s post is about György Ligeti’s Cello Concerto. No rocket science involved, just an amazing piece, performed and recorded by the BIT20 Ensemble and Baldur Brönnimann.
Sound clouds, enveloping you. As you would expect from Ligeti, this avant-garde Hungarian composer who met destiny in his European exile. The Communists would not have any of his music and he would not comply with the official doctrine. Ligeti wrote the cello concerto in 1966 and had conceived it as a single movement work originally. As the composition progressed, Ligeti decided to expand the material into a movement in its own right and used the remainder of the thematic material for a second movement. The concerto is scored for solo cello with an orchestra of flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, harp and strings.
Ligeti’s composition is musical modernity at its best, the concerto is one of his most popular pieces. The influence of electronic music on Ligeti’s compositions becomes obvious in this piece, and while it has no direct message as such, I find peace, continuity and a certain comfort in the first movement. Ironic, isn’t it, but the piece preceded the social upheavals of 1968 by two years. The second movement however… is more complex as such and also regarding the effect it has upon me.
Ligeti defined his works of the 60s as musical gesture, conceived as an almost linguistic or semantic unit. He speaks to us, but the message depends as much on the speaker as it depends on the listener. Communication through individual filters – perhaps that is a clue to the second movement. Does Ligeti say what he means? Do we hear what he says? Do we understand what we hear? A long way from understanding what Ligeti meant.
Modern life, depending so much on electronic means of communication, is ripe with misunderstandings and confusion. Never before have so many understood so little while communicating so much. Globalization makes it even more difficult. Different cultural backgrounds, different degrees and types of education clash with each other with no time to sort out the different positions – it is surprising that we get along despite all the communicative hurdles.
© Charles Thibo
P. S. In case your wondering about the post’s headline – it’s English actually. And a question of perspective.