Miklós Lukács Cimbiosis Trio – Ligeti Ensemble Responses to Ligeti

BMCCD330 2024

On this album, recorded to celebrate the centenary of György Ligeti’s birth, the Miklós Lukács Cimbiosis Trio and the Ligeti Ensemble respond to the questions raised in Ligeti’s Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet. The collaboration was conceived by Miklós Lukács at the request of BMC, and the two orchestras premiered the work at the Ligeti 100 Festival in May 2023.
The musicians of the Ligeti Ensemble, which was founded by András Keller and Zoltán Rácz, and operates under the auspices of Concerto Budapest, play the challenging Ten pieces for Wind Quintet, which is answered by the Miklós Lukács Cimbiosis Trio, blurring the thin line between contemporary music and jazz. Rather than arranging Ligeti’s pieces, the Cimbiosis Trio sought ways to engage in a dialogue with the music, by the means of preludes and postludes, the musical elaboration of different moods and colours, and sometimes the dimension-changing power of interplay.
Miklós Lukács is one of the most employed artists of BMC Records, presenting a unique fusion of jazz, contemporary classical music, improvisation, and folk music. With his Cimbiosis Trio, he has already been moving more and more decisively from jazz and folk to contemporary music.
Csaba Klenyán, solo clarinettist of Concerto Budapest, has also been associated with BMC since the beginning of his career, recording two albums as a member of the Lignum Trio, and frequently performing on albums by Hungarian composers, including Péter Eötvös, László Sáry, and László Tihanyi.



Cimbiosis Trio:
Miklós Lukács – cimbalom
György Orbán – double bass
István Baló – drums

Ligeti Ensemble:
Orsolya Kaczander – flute
Dániel Ella – oboe
Csaba Klenyán – clarinet
Bálint Mohai – bassoon
János Benyus – horn

About the album

Compositions: György Ligeti (Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet), Miklós Lukács

Recorded by Zsolt Kiss at BMC Studio, Budapest on 19 June and 2 August, 2023
Musical director, editing: Máté Balogh, Miklós Lukács
Mixed and mastered by Márton Fenyvesi

Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary 


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01 On the Light 5:09
02 I. Molto sostenuto e calmo 2:17
03 Response 3:17
04 II. Prestissimo minaccioso e burlesco - Response 3:13
05 III. Lento - with Cimbalompaper 1:53
06 IV. Prestissimo leggiero e viruoso 1:02
07 Response 3:58
08 V. Presto staccatissimo e leggiero - with Cimbalompaper 0:45
09 VI. Presto staccatissimo e leggiero 1:15
10 Interlude 1:15
11 VII. Vivo, energico - Response 3:47
12 VIII. Allegro con delicatezza - Response 5:49
13 Response - IX. Sostenuto, stridente - quasi coda 6:40
14 X. Presto bizzarro e rubato, so schnell wie möglich 1:07
Total time 41:35

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

György Ligeti did not think his oeuvre represented a path for future generations to follow. The story is often told of how, during a stroll in Budapest, he said to a friend: ‘[When I die,] my wish is that nothing should be named after me, but if there is no way to avoid it, let it be known as “György Ligeti’s Wrong Way”.’ This wry comment conveys both the uniqueness of the twentieth-century composer, who was part of tradition and thus could rightly claim immortality, but also the isolation he felt in the embrace of mass culture. Today we can clearly see that his works are an inspiration to those who come after him: not just in academies, conservatories, and prestigious concert halls, but for all musicians who nurture the spirit of freedom. But whether he founded a school is a difficult question to answer. Ligeti reinvented himself in every work, taking inspiration from fractal geometry, the world of Gesualdo’s heretical harmonies, or the polyrhythms heard in the music of natural peoples. He wanted his legacy to be not a style, but a way of thinking. Since he spoke of a ‘wrong way,’ we can assume that even he was not sure of the style. He worked in an age of Babel, when music splintered into thousands of idioms, and even overlooking the host of commercial genres, we find no comprehensive term for all the trends in twentieth-century contemporary music. After the disintegration of tonality, Ligeti always felt that new footholds were necessary (only for him to later abandon those too). He knew that breaking the rules is exciting for as long as there are rules to break. Sometimes tone colour, rhythm, or harmony seemed more important to him, and we always encounter extra-musical inspiration too: in his music in various ways, we can discover his wide-ranging interest in philosophy, natural sciences, and politics.

‘Perhaps a common musical language will form again,’ he said in a published collection of conversations. In this interview, though he speaks little of the future of music, Ligeti says that if this common language is born, it ‘will have to be created through self-organization .’ Through such encounters as the collaboration between Miklós Lukács’s Cimbiosis Trio and the wind quintet of the Ligeti Ensemble, which incidentally took place in Ligeti György utca (György Ligeti Way) in Budapest. Here, beneath the street name attached to the facade of Budapest Music Center, a smaller inscription reminds us of the composer’s ironic self-definition:  ‘Tévút’ – Wrong Way. Or is it?

Although its matter-of-fact title gives no hint, the Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet is an experimental work. In 1968, the same year that he conquered a new public through Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey with his monumental orchestral and choral works (Atmosphères, Requiem, Lux aeterna), the composer’s interest shifted from large tableaux to small gestures. These works are characterized by whimsicality and playfulness, eruptions of spluttering energy, epigrammatic conciseness, grotesque and bizarre statements; one of the most important is the String Quartet No. 2, composed that same year. Ligeti later endeavoured to encompass these small linguistic formulae in a single overarching dialectic (he would succeed ten years later, in the opera Le Grand Macabre), while in the ten pieces he composed for wind quintet, he aimed to exploit the possibilities of the instruments. And he found classical models for this experiment: partly in the divertimenti of Haydn and Mozart, and partly in the cartoon music of Tom and Jerry – after all, what better application of gestural music could there be than slapstick comedy? One feature of the original cycle is that each wind instrument has a role as a soloist (in the even-numbered movements, first the clarinet, then the flute, the oboe, the horn, and the bassoon), while these virtuoso ‘concertino’ movements alternate with the ensemble movements. Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet sets players a particularly great challenge: the rapid, toccato-style motifs and sound effects require virtuoso, technically skilled musicians accustomed to playing together. The flautist doubles piccolo, and the oboeist cor anglais and oboe d’amore. The musicians of the Ligeti Ensemble, Orsolya Kaczander, Dániel Ella, Csaba Klenyán, Bálint Mohai, and János Benyus, relish these challenges.

In his own language, Miklós Lukács enters into dialogue with György Ligeti, immediately showing the not-so-distant relationship between contemporary jazz and contemporary classical music. The ‘responses’ he has written to the original compositions free them from their own era and genre. In places his working method is similar to Ligeti’s: he dissects the styles he knows into their constituent elements, mixes them up, and forges them anew. Hearing the sound of the cimbalom, an indispensable part of Gypsy orchestras, and essential in many Eastern European and Balkan folk music, it is difficult to imagine Ligeti not being interested in its possibilities of timbre, rhythm, and harmony. (It is a pity indeed that he never composed for the instrument.) The beaters and strings of the Cimbiosis Trio stand in contrast by their very nature, since the sound produced always fades away, while that of winds can increase or sustain its volume. (This difference is delightfully apparent in the last few seconds of the response to the eighth movement. ) In the playing of the trio, we hear a dance of chaos and order, of rules and irregularity. For the sake of a sound effect, Miklós Lukács ‘prepares’ the cimbalom, covering it with a sheet of paper, sometimes György Orbán’s double bass provides a taut rhythm, elsewhere it is a melancholy accompaniment, while György Baló’s thrilling fills give an edge to the process of the music. The mixing of the trio and the wind quintet is most noticeable in the seventh wind piece. This movement, in duple time, dappled with tense silences and chaotic rapid passages, gains a Bartókian pulse via Miklós Lukács brave intervention.

The last notes of the CD draw attention to the humour of György Ligeti’s music. On this page of the score, the composer inscribed a quotation from Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass (all his life, he was fond of the writer’s absurd stories, though his plans to compose an opera based on them came to nothing). ‘“Is that all?”  Alice timidly asked. “That’s all,” said Humpty Dumpty. “Good-bye.”’

Of course, that is not all. The last note betrays a sense of unfinished business, but it can be continued. We will be able to detect the influence of György Ligeti for a long time to come, in future generations. Born one hundred years ago, he often spoke of music as ‘frozen time,’ as a shape in space. Jazz is considered to be the art of the fleeting moment, of improvisation, which cannot be called back or halted. Perhaps these two things, the moment and eternity, together bring wholeness.

Máté Csabai 
Translated by Richard Robinson 


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