Ligeti: Cello Concerto; Mysteries of the Macabre; Piano Concerto

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Cello Concerto; Mysteries of the Macabre; Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Marco Blaauw (trumpet), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello), Alberto Rosado (piano); PluralEnsemble/Fabián Panisello


Does any work begin more quietly than Ligeti’s Cello Concerto? The soloist creeps in at pppppppp, and Nicolas Altstaedt manages a more restrained attack than any I’ve heard on disc, which creates its own problems: the studio acoustic is almost louder than the music for the first quarter of a minute. But the stasis of the music is beautifully caught, and, although nothing much seems to happen, it exerts a strong grip. The more ghostly flutterings which start the second movement only gradually give the music momentum before subsiding back into silence. Pacing is sure, and the recording captures all the subtle timbres which Ligeti demands from his small ensemble.

Mysteries of the Macabre, extracted from the opera Le Grand Macabre, was intended for coloratura soprano, but the option for trumpet has already been recorded several times, and Marco Blaauw yields to none in his virtuosity. If you think that modern music can’t be funny, this is a corrective, with cartoon-like rhythms, irruptive percussion, and spoken interjections from the players.

Written in the wake of Ligeti’s first book of Etudes, which were indeed studies for the larger work, the Piano Concerto is a much more serious piece. There’s a wild polyrhythmic layering at times, but also, in the slow second movement, a looking-back at Bartók’s night music, refracted through the lens of Ligeti’s mature musical personality. Alberto Rosado is at his best here, but could be more outgoing in the faster music. Still, an enjoyable disc.


Martin Cotton