György Ligeti (1923-2006) - Chamber Concerto
Recorded live on: 12th February 2009
György Ligeti (1923-2006)
II. Calmo, sostenuto
III. Movimento preciso e meccanico
Composed in 1969-70, this piece helped make the ensemble of soloists a standard line-up for new music, though Ligeti's treatment has had few equals in terms of fantasy and delightfulness. It begins with the instruments moving within a narrow range, sliding in register, until suddenly the whole pitch space is opened up by the arrival of piled octaves. Their pure sound is soon muddied, and wonderful confusion resumes: at one point the wind instruments start to sing a massively amplified folktune. Finally the music explodes into dispersed melody, only to be clamped again. 'My general idea for this movement', Ligeti has remarked, 'was the surface of a stretch of water, where everything takes place below the surface.'
The second movement takes a different route through dense chords, jostling movements and strains of melody sounding like echoes of folksong or Romantic music, such as are played by a plaintive trio of horn, oboe d'amore and trombone. After a fortissimo climax, something absolutely inevitable and yet totally unexpected turns up around the corner: a tritone sounding quietly in octaves. From this develops a second part of the movement, which beautifully disintegrates …
… to be replaced by an extraordinary musical machine, a disconnected chirruping of regular rhythms from different odd ensembles. The presto finale continues the mechanical feeling a little, but the twitterings are now rustlings that develop and echo through clusters, single intervals and arpeggios, and that race around the small orchestra in a perpetuum mobile of great virtuosity. Once again, as in the first and second movements, one way out of the maze appears to be through melody, and a line starts out on the horn, most positive of instruments. But the melody quickly begins to lose its distinctiveness, and the perpetual motion continues until another tritone, like a single light of gathering intensity, begins to shine through the texture and freeze the music, leaving only disjointed echoes.
Nicholas Kok conductor
Nicholas Kok is an extremely versatile conductor and musician. In the concert hall, the opera house and on radio he has conducted numerous world and British premieres, including works by Birtwistle, Holt, Maxwell Davies, Reich, Turnage and Xenakis. He is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor to the leading new music ensemble Psappha, with which he has recorded and toured extensively. From 1996 to 2006 Nicholas was Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of Sinfonia ViVA (formerly East of England Orchestra), with which he performed an extremely large and varied repertoire and is now the orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor.
For English National Opera he has conducted Orfeo, Il Ritorno d'Ulisse, The Fairy Queen, The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte, King Priam, a double-bill of world premieres by Turnage - The Country of the Blind and Twice through the Heart - in a joint production with the South Bank and the Aldeburgh Festival, and the world premiere of Alec Roth and Vikram Seth's opera Arion and the Dolphin. He made his Opera North debut conducting the world premiere of Simon Holt's The Nightingale's to Blame at the Huddersfield Festival in 1998, where he also conducted the British premiere of Hindenburg, a major new work by Steve Reich. He returned to Opera North for a new production of Gluck's Orfeo in 2004 and in 2007 with a new production of Les Noces/Dido and Aeneas. Festivals at which he has appeared include Edinburgh, BBC Proms, Orkney, Cheltenham, Montepulciano and "Sound Around" in Copehhagen/Malmo.
Nicholas Kok made his debut at the Stuttgart Staatsoper in 1997 conducting Purcell's King Arthur, and returned for a new production of L'incoronazione di Poppea and revivals of Hänsel und Gretel and L'italania in Algieri. For Cologne Opera he conducted Le nozze di Figaro and a new production of Semele, which he also directed in Graz. In Klagenfurt he conducted highly acclaimed productions of Handel's Teseo and Cavalli's Il Giasone, and for CPO, Porto, Nicholas conducted a new production of L'Elisir d'Amore. He played a large part in setting up Almeida Opera for which he conducted Mario the Magician by Stephen Oliver and A Family Affair by Julian Grant. For Opera Factory London he conducted Poppea, Dido and Aeneas, Cosi fan tutte, The Magic Flute, Curlew River, The Bacchae (Xenakis), Sarajevo (Osborne) and Reimann's The Ghost Sonata and for OF Zürich La Calisto and Marschner's Der Vampyr, in his own version for chamber orchestra. Other operatic engagements have included Don Giovanni for ETO, Il Barbiere for DGOS, Cendrillon by Pauline Viardot for Opera Rara and Gerald Barry's The Intelligence Park for Almeida Festival/Opera Factory. For McKinsey/WDR/Arte he conducted the world premieres of Alexander Krampe's reworkings of Rousseau's Pygmalion and Bizet's Carmen.
Orchestras and ensembles he has worked with include the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Scottish National, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Scottish Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Ireland, Ulster Orchestra, Halle, Het Gelders Orkest, Liepaja SO, Munich Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Jenaer Philharmonie, Orchestra of St John's Smith Square, Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Philippines Philharmonic and the Almeida, Endymion, Nash, Premiere, Remix and Resonanz Ensembles.
Nicholas Kok works frequently with the BBC Singers (with whom he has recorded a huge repertoire) and Schola Cantorum. He has recorded for radio and television, and has written and arranged music for both mediums, as well as working as assistant/banda conductor on numerous recordings for Opera Rara and Chandos. He has worked closely with many choreographers (as conductor and arranger) and has conducted for Scottish Ballet (Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty, as well as three programmes at the Edinburgh Festival) and Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. He played the premiere of his own music for Scottish Dance Theatre's "Out of the House" performances, and the world premiere of his own "7th Degree" was performed by Julian Bliss and Viva, conducted by the composer.
Future plans include Gluck Orphée et Euridice for Staatstheater Stuttgart, Handel Agrippina at the Teatro Sao Carlos Lisbon, the world premiere of Maxwell Davies' new opera at the Royal Academy of Music, Stravinsky with Scottish Ballet at the Edinburgh International Festival, Mendelssohn and Rangström with Stockholm Royal Ballet and concerts with Psappha and Viva.
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