|Recorded in April 1968, April 1979, May 1981 & March 1982, March 1989.
DG’s distinguished 20/21 series has the makings of an encyclopaedic survey of the 20th-century avant garde; it is now the turn of Hungarian composer György Ligeti.
The selections so far have had a random feel to them, with things like Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire slipped in among the Boulez, Berio and Kagel, and some notable omissions, not least, Ligeti who at last gets his due with this single-disc compilation of recordings from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
The six works sound as fresh and vibrant as the day they were made, thanks to digital remastering.
The repertory is mostly drawn from Ligeti’s first years of freedom in the West which saw a sudden explosion of work like the heavily atmospheric organ pieces Volumina and Harmonies played here by Gerd Zacher. From the following decade come the capricious Three Pieces for Two Pianos played with properly machine-like clarity by the Kontarsky brothers. But the main items are the two wordless operas from the 1960s, Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures that definitively establish their composer’s commitment to the brilliant but bizarre.
Mary Thomas, William Pearson and the irrepressible Jane Manning were the soloists on these 1981/82 recordings made at IRCAM under Boulez. And that happy coincidence of time, place, circumstance and personnel is evident in the vigour and energy of what you hear. Those really were the days.--Michael White