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CD Review

György Ligeti

Sony S2K62312

Le Grand Macabre (1997 version)

  • Willard White (Nekrotzar)
  • Derek Lee Ragin (Prince Go-Go)
  • Graham Clark (Piet the Pot)
  • Jard van Nes (Mescalina)
  • Frode Olsen (Astradamors)
  • Sibylle Ehlert (Venus, Gepopo)
  • Laura Claycomb (Amanda)
  • Charlotte Hellekant (Amando)
  • Steven Cole (White Minister)
  • Richard Suart (Black Minister); others
London Sinfonietta Voices
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
Sony Classical S2K62312 DDD 2CDs 43:12, 59:15
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With this work avant-guarde composer György Ligeti presents "opera." (He put quotes around the word himself.) Ornery to the core, Le Grand Macabre uses musical instruments to simulate non-musical effects. Before its scenes there are two car horn Préludes and a doorbell Prélude. These frisky and brief introductions are amusing in the same way as Marcel Duchamps' famous found urinal sculpture. In fact, the entire plot is retro-Dada: Piet the Pot, a forever tipsy, professional wine-taster, is abducted by Nekrotzar, the Great Macabre, a personification of death. We meet court astrologers who engage in S & M and a confused Prince Go-Go, who reigns in Breughelland, a place where the two political parties have no differences at all. (Sound familiar?) This anti-music is cacophonous and occasionally clever, such as a concluding Passacaglia done in mock classical style. Squawking sprechtstimme inflates the non-musical segments with volume lacking substance. Inevitably, the work's constant anarchic energy wears thin. There is just too much grunting, squealing, and fall-flat satire. Thirty five years ago I anticipated hearing Le Grand Macabre for the first and only time and wrote: "Always in the melting hour/There are eons of ten minutes to endure."

Copyright © 2001, Peter Bates

Trumpet