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Customer reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars

on 28 July 2013
If you're interested in Ligeti, but never gave it a try, this is for you. I'm not initiated enough to vouch for the selection, but the examples cover a wide range of musical approaches.
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This box should probably be your first choice if you want to get acquainted with the works of Ligeti. The recordings in this box are overseen by Ligeti himself, and they were supposed to be definitive recordings that after his death could show conductors how his music was supposed to be played. As detailed in Richard Steinitz' Ligeti biography, it took two record companies to bring us the complete authoritative works of Ligeti on CD. Sony started a series of cd's called "The Ligeti Edition", but they had to concentrate on the smaller works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles - they simply weren't able to produce the biggest works for choir and orchestra to the composers satisfaction. The project was aborted after 7 cd's, and later continued by Teldec. This box contains all Teldec's 5 cd's of the recordings of the really big works. And as I started out saying, it's recommended as the first Ligeti item to buy.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 July 2009
The history of modernism in twentieth century 'classical' music is largely about composers leaving the safe shores of tonality, pushing out into the vast unknown lands beyond, and staking claim to some piece of territory. Then, if successful, they make it unmistakably their own. Gyorgy Ligeti was one such individual. Later composers might try to imitate or to to assimilate elements of his language or procedures, but there is no real question of taking his line of exploration any further out. He went to the furthest edge of musical possibilities and peeped over into the nothingness beyond. Probably why Stanley Kubrick chose this man's extraordinary music to represent the impossible alienness that humanity encounters in his classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This box-set presents Ligeti's large-scale works, that is large scale in terms of forces. Few of his works extend as far as twenty minutes in duration. With the exception of a handful of early, Eastern European folk inspired works, which even then show where his genius is heading, we are into a world where melody, harmony and even such simple devices as scales have been left behind. Timbre, texture and sonority reign supreme, with intricately detailed polyphony being subjugated into their service on occasions. Where rhythm does occur, it is irregular and stuttering, but most of the time we are floating within vast mutating sound sculptures, in which space is carved and divided, and from which new objects emerge to grow and fragment into features of the sonic landscape.

While 'classical', notated music is my home medium my interests extend to include the more 'out on the edge' regions of electronic music. In many repects Ligeti's music is in the same domain as that part of the electronica world that is called 'dark ambient'. But it has to be said that what he manages to do with real instruments is richer, more organic and downright stranger than anything that might be managed by the mere concatentation of waveforms. The subtle chaotic element provided by real musicians, playing real instruments, never quite prcisely in synchrony, in real acoustics allow the physics of sound generation to do things that only the most sophisticated of acoustic modelling techniques are just getting to grips with.

Much of Ligeti's sound world is generated from tone clusters. That is the blending of two or more notes that are only one two semitones apart, which, for reasons of physics, especially down towards the lower registers, give rise to timbres that are more than just the sum of their parts. Towards the higher end Ligeti might use microtonality, instruments playing not quite in tune with each other to achieve similar effects. Then there is his famous micropolyphony, in which many instruments play slightly differing lines, too rapid for the ear to unpick, and resulting in exotic aural textures, that again sound somewhat akin to those created in electronic studios.

At the larger scale Ligeti's blends these textures into intricate, evolving canvasses. Very often the music is about tone clusters evolving, colliding, merging or fragmenting. The result is often majestic and evocative of deep numinous awe. Sometimes this gives way to downright terror. Very occasionally one even finds oneself asking whether the music might not actually be about the terrors of living in a police state, which was Ligeti's condition until his move to Germany. But no, the man's music is not about trauma. You'd have to question whether it's about anything social at all. The theme throughout, it seems to me, is the individual human spirit reflected in all its manifestations by the void. He reminds us that we ourselves in fact are the unimaginably alien.
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on 18 July 2015
superb collection of Ligeti recordings - plays very well on my hi fi setup.
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on 4 March 2016
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on 23 February 2015
Very nice!!
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on 6 August 2011
I've only just finished listening to this set (of 5 CDs). A few familiar pieces but mostly new to me. Like a lot of new modern music it's not always very accessible at first hearing, and I tended to hover around the familiar items. Then you begin to hear harmonies and discords, and tunes (for want of a better term) in all sorts of pieces, and it grows on you. But I'll put the set away for a week or two, and then have another listen.

Mike Gray, Dumfries, Scotland
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on 28 September 2009
I'm not a typical fan of Ligeti's. I've listened to little in the way of classical music, instead enjoying a wide range of pop, jazz and world music. Also, Ligeti is not your typical composer, very much of the avant-garde, with little in the way of traditional melodies, and often chromatic (that is, includes all the 12 notes in the same piece, even at the same time). Yet I find some of his music incredibly emotional, often in a somewhat unsettling fashion; this really should not be the case. Also, as I listen to it I really enjoy his strange scales and harmonies, and am pleased that many of pieces do not conform to the rules of typical film orchestration, the only place I tend to hear new orchestral pieces.

This collection has high quality recordings and performances, and a great selection of his works, all at a bargain price. I also own the Clear or Cloudy: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon 4 CD collection, but this is superior in both quality and selection. Highlights for me include his Requiem (all four movements), Clocks and Clouds (another beautiful choral piece), Atmospheres, Lontano, his Cello Concerto, Apparitions, San Francisco Polyphony, and Ramifications. Some other pieces I find inaccessible, but I feel I am lucky I can at least enjoy some of his works, as many people are unable to enjoy any of them, as it is fairly difficult to do so: persevere and you will be rewarded. One thing that can help is visualising scenes while listening to his music; I first enjoyed his music, like many others, while watching the film 2001 A Space Odyssey. A decent hi-fi or headphones also helps.

Not all his best works are included, so I recommend the buying the 4 disc DG collection, or the 2 disc The Ultimate Gyorgi Ligeti, or the 3 disc Gyorgy Ligeti Special Edition 2006, or download some tracks. I particularly like Lux Aeterna, and Continuum and Hungarian Rock (the harpsichord versions are best). If you want to go the whole hog you need to buy the seven Sony Gyorgy Ligeti Editions and his opera Le Grand Macabre.
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