String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2
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Gyorgy Ligeti' choral and orchestral music hit the mainstream when it was featured in the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but his equally remarkable chamber works remain less well known. While indebted to his compatriot Bartók for its folk-
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As to the music itself, there are three pieces here: the First Quartet (1953-54), the Second Quartet (1968) and the Andante and Allegretto (1950). The last of these is a two movement set that Ligeti wrote within the stringent guidelines in Hungary at the time: easily accessible music that is generally tonal, uses folk elements and is sugary without being cloying.
The First Quartet is subtitled 'Métamorphoses nocturnes' and is indebted to the string quartets of Bartók, particularly his Quartets No. 3 & 4. It is in one continuous movement that nonetheless comprises the usual four movements of a quartet: a sonata-allegro, a manic presto, a slow movement containing a boozy waltz, and a final energetic movement that collapses into a resigned conclusion.
The Second Quartet is by far the best-known of Ligeti's quartets and is notable for the composer's penchant for dramatic gestures from moments of breath-stopping stillness, to manic episodes, to unison harmonics, varieties of pizzicati and jazzy rhythms cheek by jowl with sections of brutal dissonance. There is not one dull moment in this five-movement, twenty-minute work. The Parkers play it for it all it's worth. I could not stop listening to it. And each time through I found new things to marvel at. This after knowing this quartet for years from the earlier recordings.
A definite winner.