Happy Birthday, György!

NaBloPoMo Day 28!

I was just reading the Composers Datebook (like a good little Music Nerd 😉 ) and I noticed that today is the birthday of György Ligeti (1923-2006), one of my favorite composers. (I seem to have a fondness for Hungarian composers — I wrote about another one earlier this month!) Whether you’ve heard of Ligeti or not, if you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, or Eyes Wide Shut, you’ve heard his music. (The director of these films, Stanley Kubrick, neglected to obtain Ligeti’s permission for the use of his music in 2001. Under threat of legal action, Kubrick paid Ligeti after that fact, and then did things the legit way for the subsequent films. [1])

I mentioned recently that I had taken the scores to Books I and II of his Études pour piano out of the library. It’s kind of fun to see what the score looks like and bang out a few of the notes myself. And yeah, they’re really, really hard! Here’s an audio sample from the first one, Désordre.

And here’s a video of one of my very favorite études, L’escalier du Diable, (The Devil’s Staircase). I played a recording of this piece for my high school students once — freaked ’em out pretty good! 😉

I found a great quote from an account by the soprano Barbara Hannigan, who attended Ligeti’s funeral and memorial concert in Vienna, in June 2006:

This is Ligeti: heart and mind working together in a virtuosic storm.”

Boldog születésnapot (That’s Hungarian for Happy Birthday!), György, wherever you are!


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    [1] Russell Platt, “Clarke, Kubrick, and Ligeti: A Tale,” The New Yorker online. Retrieved 2008-05-28.

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