The Goldner String Quartet play Ligeti

It’s always good to be introduced to a new composer, and a quartet by the Hungarian György Ligeti of 1953/54 superbly played by the Goldner Quartet proved a fascinating introduction to his work. It’s an intense piece, spare and dissonant while remaining tonal. Doubtless Ligeti’s style owes something to a need to define himself against Bartok, a towering figure in Hungarian music, but the political situation then current in his country, which he was soon to leave,  must also have fed into his music. Like his better known Russian contemporaries and the slightly later Estonian Arvo Pärt, it is a style that offers no easy consolations, but rather a seriousness of inescapable integrity.

In 1978 the Russian artist Tatyana Nazarenko produced a painting that hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery, A Moscow Evening. It shows a group of four young people who have gathered to make music, three men who hold different instruments and a woman. They give the appearance of being utterly unrelated to the buildings of the city behind them, and of having come together to do something of great importance. Perhaps they can stand as emblematic of the role of musicians in such a society?

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