Ligeti: Études, Book 1; Études, Book 2; Invention; Due capricci; Trois bagatelles for David Tudor; Chromatische Phantasie

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COMPOSERS: Ligeti
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Études, Book 1; Études, Book 2; Invention; Due capricci; Trois bagatelles for David Tudor; Chromatische Phantasie
PERFORMER: Fredrik Ullén (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-783 DDD
This disc contains the first complete recording of Book 2 of Ligeti’s piano Études, which the composer completed in 1993, along with the much-played and twice-recorded Book 1. Alongside these are some fascinating rarities from the Forties and Fifties. Interesting though they are, these pieces are no preparation for the incandescent, exuberant display of pianistic and intellectual virtuosity that are the Études.

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Like the Chopin and Debussy Études, Ligeti’s are studies in one kind of sound or piano technique. There are three characteristic moods in these pieces; the reflective, the wittily agile, and a state that can only be described as exuberant frenzy, in which the play of different rhythmic layers rises to a dizzy climax, converging finally on the piano’s very top or bottom note.

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Fredrik Ullén succeeds best at the first two; anything requiring light, fleet fingerwork comes off well here. Where he is less good is in the ‘frenzied’ mode, which is unfortunate as that is where most of these pieces tend. This may be the fault of the recorded sound, which is very dry and lacking in any kind of weight. Rolf Hind’s recording of Book 1 (now, alas, deleted) is much better in this regard; both are better than Volker Banfield’s version on Wergo. Ivan Hewett