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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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Fascinated by the Music of Ligeti

Extract

How can we account for a composer’s popularity? The reasons are never easy to arrive at. For many, fame and success are a priori suspect terms, and it should not be forgotten that the work of many prominent artists gained recognition only after their deaths. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that many avant-garde works have a very short life-span. Only a very few pieces are permitted to join the standard repertoire. Most fall into oblivion.

Of all leading contemporary composers, György Ligeti, who died on 12 June 2006 at the age of 83, was probably the most showered with awards: he received the highest honours that the cultural world could confer, and there is no doubt that, given the inspired quality of his music, he fully deserved them. These accolades could also be taken as the tardy rehabilitation of an artist who in his prime had at times to endure bitter hardship. After he fled from Hungary in December 1956, Ligeti lived for several years on tiny grants and lectureships. He taught and composed in Italy, in Aix-en-Provence, Denmark, Sweden and the United States – little wonder, then, that he became a cosmopolitan.

Today, Ligeti is one of the most-performed composers in the world. Many of his works – Atmosphères, the Requiem, Horn Trio and the concertos for piano and for violin, to name only a few – are without question classics of the modern repertoire. His anti-opera Le grand Macabre has been and...

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