Ligeti: Études, Book 1; Études, Book 2; Études, Book 3

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: L’empreinte digitale
WORKS: Études, Book 1; Études, Book 2; Études, Book 3
PERFORMER: Toros Can (piano)
Hard on the heels of the Naxos recording by Idil Biret which I reviewed last month, comes a version of these endlessly inventive and fascinating pieces by another Turkish pianist. This music, with its immensely complex web of cross-rhythms, and its polytonal aspect more often than not realised by having the player’s hands notated in different key-signatures, demands an intrepid virtuoso, and Toros Can fits the bill rather better than the more cautious Biret. Some of these pieces – such as ‘Der Zauberlehrling’ (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), with its gradually shifting rapid-fire repeated-note patterns – are so vertiginous in effect that they sound as though they were conceived with the limitless possibilities of a mechanical instrument in mind. Toros Can is dazzling in this work, as he is in the already famous ‘L’escalier du diable’, in which he has a good stab at conveying Ligeti’s surrealist ffffffff markings. Where he is rather less successful is in communicating the music’s sense of swing: there is a good deal more rhythmic lilt in the astonishingly lucid performances by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, as there is in the fine account of the second book of Études by the Canadian pianist Lucille Chung. Can is rather let down, too, by a close balance which deprives the piano sound of its natural overtones. Aimard’s authoritative account must still be the prime recommendation, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this new release includes two additional Études from Book 3 that had not been composed at the time his recording was made. Misha Donat