Obituary: György Ligeti

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Schott Music mourns

On Monday morning of 12 June, the Austrian-Hungarian composer György Ligeti died in Vienna at the age of 83 after suffering from a serious illness. With him, we have lost one of the greatest composers of the 20th-century.

György Ligeti was an adventurer in form and expression and a great visionary of contemporary music. His richly varied output takes a special position in its musical quality and uncompromising individuality. Ligeti moved far away from aesthetic trends and methods all his life. He was characterised by fresh and unorthodox ideas, any form of dogmatism was foreign to his nature, his entire oeuvre is marked by radical turning points. Admired and hugely influential in the profession, the sensual accessibility of his music has won the hearts of audiences everywhere.

Atmosphères, the orchestral work he created in 1961, made Ligeti instantly well-known. In this piece, he worked almost completely without traditional melodic, harmonic and rhythmic parameters and concentrated on sounds with constantly changing textures. 'Micropolyphony, he once described, 'means such a dense tissue that the individual parts become inaudible and only the resulting intermingling harmonies are effective as a form'. For him, however, techniques were never an end in themselves. Ligeti did not keep long to iridescent tonal surfaces, but always looked for new paths.

His father and brother both died in concentration camps; he himself managed to escape the labour service of the Hungarian army in 1941 and had to flee to Austria after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Deeply affected by these events, he developed a strong dislike of any dictatorship and any form of intellectual restriction: ? am an enemy of ideologies in the ans. Totalitarian regimes do not like dissonances. …