Dierd Ligeti

Dierd Ligeti

Austrian avant-garde composer, inventor of micropolyphony, teacher.
Country: Austria

Biography of György Ligeti

György Ligeti was an Austrian avant-garde composer, inventor of micropolyphony, and educator. He was born in Dicsőszentmárton (now Târnăveni), Transylvania, into a Hungarian Jewish family. Ligeti grew up speaking Hungarian and first heard Romanian when he encountered police and military officers in the city. He was exposed to Romanian and Hungarian folk music in his early childhood, which, along with the works of Bartók, had a significant influence on his own compositions. At the age of 6, his family moved to Cluj-Napoca, where he received his early musical education.

In 1941, the composer moved to Budapest. In 1943, he was arrested and sent to forced labor. During this time, his entire family was sent to Auschwitz, and only his mother survived. In 1949, while studying recordings at the Institute of Folklore in Bucharest, Ligeti returned to Romanian folk music, which inspired him to write his "Romanian Concerto" (Concert românesc) in 1951. However, the constraints of socialist realism limited his creative freedom, and many of his orchestral works, such as "Darkness and Light" (Sötét és világos) and the oratorio "Ishtar's Journey to the Underworld" (Istar pokoljárása), remained unfinished. The Iron Curtain deprived Ligeti of the opportunity to communicate with Western composers, and the only source of progressive music for him was radio broadcasts.

On December 10, 1956, following the suppression of the Hungarian anti-Soviet uprising by the Red Army, Ligeti and his wife fled to Austria. The following year, in Cologne, he met experimental composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gottfried Koenig, with whom he collaborated in the field of academic electronic music. However, after three years, he lost interest in electronics and continued his work in instrumental music.

By 1961, Ligeti gained recognition and acclaim in certain circles thanks to works such as "Apparitions" (1959) and "Atmospheres" (1961), in which he actively employed his invented technique of micropolyphony. Other notable works from this period include the theatrical "Symphonic Poem for 100 Metronomes" (Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes, 1962) and the absurdist "Adventures" (Aventures, 1962) and "New Adventures" (Nouvelles Aventures, 1965). From 1963 to 1965, Ligeti worked on one of his most expansive compositions, the "Requiem," which brought him recognition in broader circles. According to the composer, his "Requiem" is a wild, hysterical, and hyperdramatic work that musically portrays the events of the Last Judgment. In 1966, Ligeti wrote the choral piece "Lux Aeterna," followed by "Lontano" in 1967 and "Ramifications" in 1969.

It is worth mentioning Ligeti's conflict with Stanley Kubrick and MGM over the use of his music in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey." After the film's release in 1968, it was discovered that Ligeti's compositions had been used and modified by Kubrick without the composer's permission, leading to a prolonged legal dispute. In the 1970s, Ligeti moved away from chromaticism and focused on rhythmic structures. During this period, from 1975 to 1977, he wrote his only opera, "Le Grand Macabre," based on a play by Michel de Ghelderode, which, following "Adventures," further developed the ideas of absurd theater. In the early 1980s, due to heart disease, Ligeti's creative activity declined. However, in 1982, he composed his "Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano." One of Ligeti's last works was the "Hamburg Concerto," dedicated to German horn player Marie-Luise Neunecker, with whom Ligeti actively collaborated in his final years.

György Ligeti passed away in Vienna on June 12, 2006, after an extended period of health problems. The composer's family declined to disclose the cause of his death.