György Ligeti

György Ligeti

Infobox Musical artist
Name = György Ligeti

Img_capt =
Img_size = 300px
Landscape =
Background = non_performing_personnel
Birth_name = György Sándor Ligeti
Alias =
Born = birth date|mf=yes|1923|5|28|mf=y
Târnăveni, Romania
Died = death date and age|mf=yes|2006|6|12|1923|5|28|mf=y
Vienna, Austria
Origin =
Instrument =
Genre =
Occupation = Composer, songwriter
Years_active =
Label =
Associated_acts =

György Sándor Ligeti (May 28, 1923 – June 12, 2006) was a composer, born in a Jewish family in Transylvania, Romania. He briefly lived in Hungary before later becoming an Austrian citizen. Many of his works are well known in classical music circles, but to the general public, he is best known for the various pieces featured in the Stanley Kubrick films "", "The Shining", and "Eyes Wide Shut".


Ligeti was born in Târnava-Sânmărtin (renamed Târnăveni in 1945), in the Transylvania region of Romania to a Hungarian-speaking Jewish family. Ligeti recalls that his first exposure to languages other than Hungarian came one day while listening to a conversation among the Romanian-speaking town police. Before that he hadn't known that other languages existed. [ [ John Tusa Interview with Gyorgy Ligeti] BBC, 1999] He moved to Cluj with his family when he was 6 and he was not to return to the town of his birth until the 1990s.

Ligeti received his initial musical training in the conservatory at Cluj. In 1943, after the takeover of Northern Transylvania by Hungary following the Second Vienna Award, his education was interrupted when, as a Jew, he was sent to a forced labor brigade by the Horthy regime. His brother, at the age of sixteen, was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp; his parents were both sent to Auschwitz. His mother was the only other survivor of the immediate family.

Following the war, Ligeti returned to his studies in Budapest, Hungary, graduating in 1949. He studied under Pál Kadosa, Ferenc Farkas, Zoltán Kodály and Sándor Veress. He went on to do ethnomusicological work on Romanian folk music, but after a year returned to his old school in Budapest, this time as a teacher of harmony, counterpoint and musical analysis. However, communications between Hungary and the West by then had been undergoing difficulties due to the communist government, and Ligeti and other artists were effectively cut off from the recent developments outside the so-called Soviet bloc. In December of 1956, two months after the Hungarian revolution was put down by the Soviet Army, he fled first to Vienna and eventually took Austrian citizenship.

In Cologne he was able to meet several key avant-garde figures and to learn the more contemporary musical styles and methods. [ [,,2018705,00.html George Benjamin, "In the realm of the senses". "The Guardian", 23 February 2007.] ] These included the composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig, both then working on groundbreaking electronic music. Ligeti worked in the same Cologne studio, and was inspired by the sounds he heard there. However, he produced little electronic music of his own, instead concentrating on instrumental works which often contain electronic-sounding textures.

From this time, Ligeti's work became better known and respected, and his best known work might be said to span the period from "Apparitions" (1958-9) to "Lontano" (1967), although his later opera, "Le Grand Macabre" (1978) is also fairly well-known. In more recent years, his three books of "Études" for piano have become more well-known thanks to recordings made by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Fredrik Ullén, and others.

Ligeti took a teaching post at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik und Theater in 1973, retiring in 1989. In the early 1980s, he tried to find a new stylistic position (closer to "tonality"), leading to an absence from the musical scene for several years until he reappeared with the Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano (1982). From then on, his output was plentiful through the 1980s and 1990s. However, health problems became severe after the turn of the millennium, and no further vocal pieces appeared after the song cycle "Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedüvel" ("With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles", 2000). Ligeti's last original work to be completed is the eighteenth piano etude of 2001, "Canon." This title and the form of the etude recalls the musical language of Ligeti's central European homeland.

Ligeti died in Vienna on June 12, 2006. Although it was known that Ligeti had been ill for several years and had used a wheelchair the last three years of his life, his family declined to release the cause of his death. Ligeti's funeral was held at the Vienna Crematorium at the Zentralfriedhof, the Republic of Austria and the Republic of Hungary represented by their respective cultural affairs ministers. The ashes were finally buried at the Zentralfriedhof in a grave dedicated to him by the City of Vienna.

Aside from his musical interests, Ligeti was interested in literature, for example in Lewis Carroll, and the arts, in architecture, in science and mathematics, especially in the fractal geometry of Benoît Mandelbrot, and in Douglas R. Hofstadter.

Ligeti was the grand-nephew of the great violinist Leopold Auer. Ligeti's son, Lukas Ligeti, is a composer and percussionist based in New York City.


Ligeti's earliest works are an extension of the musical language of Béla Bartók. The piano pieces, "Musica ricercata" (1951-53), for example, are often compared to Bartók's set of piano works, "Mikrokosmos". Ligeti's set comprises eleven pieces in all. The first uses almost exclusively just one pitch A, heard in multiple octaves. Only at the very end of the piece is a second note, D, heard. The second piece then uses three notes (E#, F#, and G), the third piece uses four, and so on, so that in the eleventh piece all twelve notes of the chromatic scale are present. (The second ricercata is used extensively in Stanley Kubrick's film "Eyes Wide Shut".)

Already at this early stage in his career, Ligeti was affected by the communist regime in Hungary at that time. The tenth piece of "Musica Ricercata" was banned by the authorities on account of it being "decadent." Given the far more radical direction that Ligeti was looking to take his music in, it is hardly surprising that he felt the need to leave Hungary.

Upon arriving in Cologne, he began to write electronic music alongside Karlheinz Stockhausen. He completed only two works in this medium, however, including "Glissandi" (1957) and "Artikulation" (1958), before returning to instrumental music. A third work, originally entitled "Atmosphères" but later known as "Pièce électronique no.3", was planned; however, the technical limitations of the time prevented Ligeti from realizing it completely. It was finally realized in 1996 by the Dutch composers Kees Tazelaar, Johan van Kreij and Paul Berg. Ligeti's music appears to have been subsequently influenced by his electronic experiments, and many of the sounds he created resembled electronic textures. "Apparitions" (1958-59) was the first work that brought him to critical attention, but it is his next work, "Atmosphères", that is better known today. It was used, along with excerpts from "Lux Aeterna" and "Requiem", in the soundtrack to Kubrick's "" but without Ligeti's permission.

"Atmosphères" (1961) is written for large orchestra and is not musically related to the earlier electronic piece of the same name, although some of its aesthetic intentions are similar. It is seen as a key piece in Ligeti's output, laying out many of the concerns he would explore through the 1960s. Out of the four elements of music — melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre — the piece almost completely abandons the first three, concentrating on the texture of the sound, a technique known as sound mass. It opens with what must be one of the largest cluster chords ever written — every note in the chromatic scale over a range of five octaves is played at once. Out of the fifty-six string players ushering in the first chord, no two play the same note. The piece seems to grow out of this initial massive, but very quiet, chord, with the textures always changing. For this compositional technique not only used in the aforementioned work, "Atmosphères", but also in "Apparitions" and his other works of the time, Ligeti coined the term "micropolyphony", which he explained as follows: "The complex polyphony of the individual parts is embodied in a harmonic-musical flow, in which the harmonies do not change suddenly, but merge into one another; one clearly discernible interval combination is gradually blurred, and from this cloudiness it is possible to discern a new interval combination taking shape."Fact|date=September 2008

The "Requiem" for soprano, mezzo-soprano, five-voice chorus, and orchestra is a four-movement work in the same totally-chromatic style as "Atmosphères" (a portion of this work too received wide currency in the scene on the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," in the scene of the “proto-humans” approaching the monolith). The first movement of "Requiem", the "Introitus", has a thin texture, but the "Kyrie/Christe" is a stunning, brilliant evocation of searing appeal. It is a massive (twenty-part choral) quasi-fugue where the counterpoint is re-thought in terms of the material, consisting of melismatic masses interpenetrating and alternating with complex skipping parts. It was a part of this movement that accompanied the enigmatic monolith scenes in Kubrick’s "." The last instance quoted in the movie (at "Jupiter: Beyond the Infinite"), this movement (interrupted by a loud radio-tone screech from the monolith) "segues" to the opening of "Atmosphères." The penultimate movement, "de Die Judicii Sequentia" (Day of Judgement Sequence) is a colossal montage of contrasts: "fff" loud versus "ppp" soft, masses of sound versus soloists, etc. In the final movement, "Lacrimosa" (weeping), the chorus is muted, and only a reduced orchestra accompanies the plangent singing of the soloists. Ligeti confirmed that there are strong traces of his reaction to the Holocaust (in which his family was annihilated, except his mother, who survived Auschwitz) in this work.Fact|date=September 2008

"Lux Aeterna" is a 16-voice "a cappella" piece whose text is also associated with the Latin Requiem, which also was partially used in Kubrick’s movie (for the moon-bus scene "en route" to the TMA-1 monolith in the crater Tycho). The piece is strongly modeled after the masterful mensuration canons of Johannes Ockeghem and accomplishes much the same effect, but with secundal, rather than tertian harmony, in a paradoxically thick-but-transparent 16-voice texture.

The third Kubrick use of Ligeti’s music was from his mimodrama "Aventures" (in the even more cryptic final scenes), distorted by an echo chamber. Ligeti was not asked for permission to use his music in the movie, but other than annoyance at the disruptive sound effects, because he was a Kubrick admirer, appreciated the exposure — although the cosmic associations the music subsequently acquired had never been his intent.Fact|date=September 2008

From the 1970s, Ligeti turned away from total chromaticism and began to concentrate on rhythm. Pieces such as "Continuum" (1970) and "Clocks and Clouds" (1972-73) were written before he heard the music of Steve Reich and Terry Riley in 1972, yet the second of his "Three Pieces for Two Pianos", "Self-portrait with Reich and Riley (and Chopin in the background)," commemorates this affirmation and influence. He also became interested in the rhythmic aspects of African music, specifically that of the Pygmies. In the mid-'70s he wrote his first opera, "Le Grand Macabre", a work of absurd theatre with many eschatological references.

His music of the 1980s and 1990s continued to emphasize complex mechanical rhythms, often in a less densely chromatic idiom (tending to favor displaced major and minor triads and polymodal structures). Particularly significant is the "Piano Concerto" (1985-88), which Ligeti described as a statement of his "aesthetic credo."Fact|date=September 2008 Also important are his "Études pour piano" (Book I, 1985; Book II, 1988-94; Book III, 1995-2001), which draw from such diverse sources as gamelan, African polyrhythms, Bartók, Conlon Nancarrow, and Bill Evans; Book I was notably written as preparation for the "Piano Concerto," which contains a number of similar motivic and melodic elements. Other notable works in this vein include the "Horn Trio" (1982), the "Violin Concerto" (1992), and the a cappella "Nonsense Madrigals" (1993), one of which sets the text of the alphabet.

Ligeti's last works were the "Hamburg Concerto" for horn and chamber orchestra (1998-99, revised 2003), the song cycle "Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedüvel" ("With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles", 2000), and the last and eighteenth piano etude "Canon," 2001.



*"Le Grand Macabre" (1975-77, second version 1996)


*"Concert românesc" (1951)
*"Apparitions" (1958-59)
*"Atmosphères" (1961)
*"Lontano" (1967)
*"Ramifications", for string orchestra or 12 solo strings (1968-69)
*"Chamber Concerto", for 13 instrumentalists (1969-70)
*"Melodien" (1971)
*"San Francisco Polyphony" (1973-74)


*Cello Concerto (1966)
*Double Concerto for Flute, Oboe and Orchestra (1972)
*Piano Concerto (1985-88)
*Violin Concerto (1992)
*"Hamburg Concerto", for Horn and Chamber Orchestra with 4 Obligato Natural Horns (1998-99, revised 2003)


*"Idegen földön, Betlehemi királyok, Bujdosó, Húsvét, Magány, Magos kősziklának," (1946)
*"Three Weöres Songs", voice and piano (1946-7)
*"Lakodalmas" (1950)
*"Hortobágy" (1951)
*"Haj, ifjuság" (1952)
*"Five Arany Songs",voice and piano (1952)
*"Inaktelki nóták, Pápainé" (1953)
*"Mátraszentimrei dalok, Éjszaka (Night), Reggel (Morning)" (1955)
*"Aventures" (1962)
*"Nouvelles Aventures" (1962-65)
*"Requiem", for Soprano and Mezzo Soprano solo, mixed Chorus and Orchestra (1963-65)
*"Lux Aeterna", for 16 solo voices (1966)
*"Clocks and Clouds", for 12 female voices (1973)
*"Nonsense madrigals", for 6 male voices (1988–1993)
*"Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedűvel" (With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles) (2000)


*"Sonate", for solo cello (1948/1953)
*"Andante and Allegro", for string quartet (1950)
*"Baladă şi joc" (Ballad and Dance), for two violins (1950)
*"Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet" (1953)
*String Quartet No. 1 "Métamorphoses nocturnes" (1953-54)
*String Quartet No. 2 (1968)
*Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet (1968)
*Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano (1982)
*"Hommage à Hilding Rosenberg", for violin and cello (1982)
*Sonata for Solo Viola (1991-94)



*"Induló" (March), four-hands (1942)
*"Polifón etüd" (Polyphonic Étude), four-hands (1943)
*"Allegro", four-hands (1943)
*"Capriccio nº 1 & nº 2" (1947)
*"Invention" (1948)
*"Három lakodalmi tánc" (Three Wedding Dances), four-hands (1950)
** (I. A kapuban a szeker, II. Hopp ide tisztan, III. Csango forgos)
*"Sonatina", four-hands (1950)
*"Musica ricercata" (1951–1953)
*"Trois Bagatelles" (1961)
*Three Pieces for Two Pianos (1976)
** (I. Monument, II. Selbstportrait mit Reich und Riley (und Chopin ist auch dabei), III. In zart fliessender Bewegung)
*"Études pour piano, Book 1", six etudes (1985)
*"Études pour piano, Book 2", eight etudes (1988-94)
*"Études pour piano, Book 3", four etudes (1995–2001)


*"Ricercare" - Omaggio a Girolamo Frescobaldi (1951)
*"Volumina" (1961-62, revised 1966)
*Two Studies for Organ ("Coulée", "Harmonies", 1967, 1969)


*"Continuum" (1968)
*"Passacaglia ungherese" (1978)
*"Hungarian Rock (Chaconne)" (1978)


*"Glissandi", electronic music (1957)
*"Artikulation", electronic music (1958)


*"Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes" (1962)


Ligeti's music shows the influence of very many composers, musicians, artists, writers etc. from different centuries, countries and cultures, for example the 15th century composer Johannes Ockeghem and the American mavericks Harry Partch and Conlon Nancarrow.


*Berlin Prize (Requiem) (1965)
*Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition (Etudes for Piano) (1986)
*Sonning Award (1990; Denmark)
*Schock Prize for Musical Arts (1995)
*Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis, Germany (1993)
*Wolf Prize in Arts, Israel (1996)
*Wihuri Sibelius Prize, Finland 2000 []
*Kyoto Award (2001)
* Kossuth Price, Hungary (2003)
*Polar Music Prize (2004)

Notable students

*Michael Daugherty


ee also

*List of Austrians in music

External links

Obituaries and remembrances

* [ The BBC obituary]
* [,,1796976,00.html "Obituary for György Ligeti"] , Plaistow, Stephen. The Guardian, Wednesday June 14, 2006, Retrieved June 14, 2006.


* [ Recording] Horn Trio: Andantino con tenerezza — Helen Kim, violin; Robert Patterson, horn; Adam Bowles, piano [ Luna Nova New Music Ensemble]
* [ Recording] Horn Trio: Vivacissimo molto ritmico — Helen Kim, violin; Robert Patterson, horn; Adam Bowles, piano [ Luna Nova New Music Ensemble]
* [ Recording] Horn Trio: Alla Marcia — Helen Kim, violin; Robert Patterson, horn; Adam Bowles, piano [ Luna Nova New Music Ensemble]
* [ Recording] Horn Trio: Lamento Adagio — Helen Kim, violin; Robert Patterson, horn; Adam Bowles, piano [ Luna Nova New Music Ensemble]

Other links

* [ Official Site] with non-proprietary audio files
* [ Gyorgy Ligeti] requires proprietary realmedia player
* [ György Ligeti's 'Aventures']
* [ CompositionToday - Ligeti article and review of works]
* [ Biographical obituary on Ligeti's life and work] from
* [ György Ligeti Tribute] - Free online tribute compilation with submissions from renowned and obscure electronic artists

NAME = György, Ligeti Sándor
DATE OF BIRTH = May 28, 1923
PLACE OF BIRTH = Tîrnaveni, Transylvania, Romania
DATE OF DEATH = June 12, 2006
PLACE OF DEATH = Vienna, Austria

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • György Ligeti — György Sándor Ligeti [ˈɟørɟ ˈliɡɛti] (Georg Alexander) (* 28. Mai 1923 in Dicsőszentmárton, rum. Târnăveni, dt. Sankt Martin, Siebenbürgen, Rumänien; † 12. Juni 2006 in Wien) war ein österreichischer Komponist ungarischer und jüdischer Herkunft.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • György Ligeti — Tombe de György Ligeti à Vienne Naissance 28 mai 1923 Diciosânmartin …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gyorgy Ligeti — György Ligeti György Ligeti est un compositeur roumain / hongrois naturalisé autrichien, né à Diciosânmartin en Roumanie (hongrois : Dicsöszentmárton, aujourd’hui Târnăveni) le 28 mai 1923 et mort le 12 juin 2006 à Vienne. Sommaire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • György Ligeti — Datos generales Nacimiento 28 de mayo de 1923 Dicsőszentmárton, Rumania …   Wikipedia Español

  • Six Bagatelles pour quintette a vent (Gyorgy Ligeti) — Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vent (György Ligeti) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Bagatelle. Les Six Bagatelles sont une œuvre du compositeur György Ligeti, composée en 1953. Présentation Il s agit d une adaptation en six sections de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Six Bagatelles pour quintette a vents (Gyorgy Ligeti) — Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vent (György Ligeti) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Bagatelle. Les Six Bagatelles sont une œuvre du compositeur György Ligeti, composée en 1953. Présentation Il s agit d une adaptation en six sections de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vent (György Ligeti) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Bagatelle. Les Six Bagatelles sont une œuvre du compositeur György Ligeti, composée en 1953. Présentation Il s agit d une adaptation en six sections de la Musica Ricercata destinée au piano ; les deux œuvres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vents (György Ligeti) — Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vent (György Ligeti) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Bagatelle. Les Six Bagatelles sont une œuvre du compositeur György Ligeti, composée en 1953. Présentation Il s agit d une adaptation en six sections de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Six bagatelles pour quintette à vents (györgy ligeti) — Six Bagatelles pour quintette à vent (György Ligeti) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Bagatelle. Les Six Bagatelles sont une œuvre du compositeur György Ligeti, composée en 1953. Présentation Il s agit d une adaptation en six sections de la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Lux Aeterna (György Ligeti) — Lux Aeterna is a piece for 16 solo singers, written by György Ligeti in 1966. It is most famous for its use in Stanley Kubrick s 1968 film .The text (in Latin) is from the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass: Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.