Ligeti: Études, Bk 2; Capriccio No. 1; Capriccio No. 2; Invention; Musica ricercata

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COMPOSERS: Ligeti
LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: Études, Bk 2; Capriccio No. 1; Capriccio No. 2; Invention; Musica ricercata
PERFORMER: Lucille Chung (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 358
Ligeti’s Études are the outstanding piano works of the past two decades – dazzling pieces in the lineage of Chopin and Debussy, yet exploiting keyboard virtuosity with utter individuality. They are instant classics. Anyone playing them needs to stand comparison with the authoritative accounts recorded for Sony’s Ligeti Edition by Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

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Lucille Chung’s brilliant, crystalline performances are certainly very impressive indeed. The jazzy rhythms of ‘Fém’ (Hungarian for ‘metal’), the dizzying Escher-like scales of ‘Vertige’, the rapid mechanical ostinato of ‘Der Zauberlehrling’ (a piece surely inspired by the player-piano music of Conlon Nancarrow) – all these are quite superbly rendered. So, too, are the older pieces included here, written while Ligeti was still living in Hungary. ‘Musica ricercata’ is a sort of elaborate counting-game, with each successive piece using one more note than the last. Some of its numbers resurfaced in Ligeti’s Bagatelles for wind quintet; and one of them was pretentiously used in Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut. Chung is fully responsive to the music’s wit, rhythmic élan and expressive depth, but Ligeti’s strident repeated notes take their toll on the piano, and it sounds at times as though a visit from the tuner would not have gone amiss.

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Those who already have Aimard’s recording would benefit from hearing Chung; but newcomers to this repertoire would do better to invest in the Sony disc, which includes virtually all the music presented here, and in addition throws in the whole of the first book of Études. Misha Donat