New Music at Hale’s Ales
Sunday, February 23, 2020 • 6:00 p.m.
Hale’s Brewery (4301 Leary Way NW, Seattle)
advance tickets: or 1-800-838-3006
save 20% with a series pass: or 1-800-838-3006
György Ligeti (1923–2006)
Six Bagatelles for wind quintet
York Bowen (1884–1961)
Fantasie Quartet for four violas, Op. 41, No. 1
String Quartet No. 3 (“Mishima”)
William C. White (*1983)
Quintet for oboe and strings, Op. 43 [first public performance]
About the Concert
Music by 20th-century greats György Ligeti, Philip Glass and York Bowen, plus a recent quintet for oboe and strings by OSSCS music director William White.
The $25 ticket price includes one glass of wine or beer, with gratuity included on all drink redemptions and purchases. Just 60 seats available: advance ticket purchase recommended.
György Sándor Ligeti was born May 28, 1923, in Transylvania, Romania. He died in Vienna on June 12, 2006. Ligeti composed these pieces for piano beginning in 1951, arranging them for wind quintet in 1953. The first five had their premiere in Budapest in 1956; the Stockholm Philharmonic Wind Quintet gave the first complete performance on October 6, 1969.
Ligeti was raised in Romania by Hungarian parents, both of whom were sent to Auschwitz during World War II. Ligeti himself was conscripted into a forced-labor brigade. After the war, he resumed his musical studies in Budapest, graduating in 1949. His early works were influenced by the legendary Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.
“About 1950 I realized that further development of the post-Bartók style … was not the way forward for me,” wrote Ligeti. “I was 27 years old and living in Budapest, completely isolated from all the ideas, trends and techniques of composition which developed in Western Europe … . In 1951, I started to experiment with simple structures of rhythm and sound in order … to build up a new music from nothing. I asked myself: ‘What can I do with a single note? What can I do with its octave? What with one interval? What with two intervals? What with definite rhythmic relationships which could form the foundation of a whole based on rhythm and interval?’ In this way several small pieces were composed, chiefly for piano.”
These small piano pieces included a set of 11 titled Musica ricercata, a ricercar being “an elaborate instrumental composition in fugal or canonic style, typically of the 16th to 18th centuries.” The first employed only two notes (A and D) over several octaves, the next three notes, and so on until the final movement used all 12 tones in the chromatic scale. At the behest of flutist Zoltán Jeney and the Budapest Wind Quintet, Ligeti selected six of these pieces and transcribed them for wind instruments. The political climate made the performance of such experimental music not without risk. When Jeney and his colleagues gave the first performance in 1956, they omitted the final movement due to its “dense chromaticism and frenzied expression.”
The first, fourth and sixth movements are indeed frenzied with occasional strident dissonances, while exhibiting the obvious influence of Hungarian folk music. The second and fifth are slower and more somber in character, the latter being a memorial to Bartók. The third floats high-register legato phrases over a repeated septuplet pattern and calls for the use of mutes by the horn as well as the bassoon.