|The Ligeti Project is a series of discs canvassing the many-faceted output of the octogenarian Hungarian composer that began over at Sony Classical. Weak sales caused Sony to shut the program down, at which point the series moved over to Teldec. Although Teldec has closed its doors for good, the project did manage to reach completion under its masthead.
This first of a projected five-disc series of Ligeti's music is a perfect introduction to the sound-world of the man who is arguably our greatest living composer. It opens with Melodien, a one-movement, 13-minute piece that begins with swirling, high-pitched winds whose sinuous lines turn into a flowing stream of iridescent instrumental colors.
The Chamber Concerto, completed a year earlier, is for 13 instrumentalists treated as virtuosic soloists. Each of its four movements has a distinct profile, from the polyphonic first movement, where the instruments play at different speed, to the chorale-like second, hammering third, and the final presto that builds from a menacing ostinato to the siren squeal of the clarinet at the close.
Aimard is the superb soloist in the Piano Concerto. He just about owns this piece, having recorded it with Boulez and Eotvos a decade ago. It's in five movements of endless inventiveness, particularly the second, which moves from desolate quietude to energetic outbursts and peters out with a quiet wind phrase. Mysteries of the Macabre is a reworking for solo trumpet and chamber orchestra of arias from Ligeti's opera, Le Grand Macabre.
An essential disc of indispensable music, brilliantly performed and recorded. --Dan Davis