Eötvös, Hannigan, Parry Ligeti: Requiem, Apparitions, San Francisco Polyphony

BMCCD166 2011

From his youth, György Ligeti was attracted by the idea of composing a requiem. He made the first sketches while still in Hungary in 1953, then after a few years, in 1956, set to work on it again, but both versions remained unfinished...


Barbara Hannigan - soprano (1-4)
Susan Parry - soprano (1-4)

WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
WDR Rundfunkchor Köln (1-4)
SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart (1-4)

conducted by Péter Eötvös

About the album

In association with Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln
Licensed by WDR Mediagroup Licensing GMBH
Recorded by WDR at Kölner Philharmonie, on 26 November, 2008 (7), 28 November, 2008 (5-6) and 5 December, 2008 (1-4)
Executive producer: Harry Vogt
Recording producer: Stephan Hahn
Recording engineer: Christoph Gronarz
Edited by Angelika Hessberger
Mixed by Péter Eötvös, Stephan Hahn, Christoph Gronarz and Harry Vogt
Music publishers: Peters (1-4), Universal Edition (5-6), Schott Music (7)

Artwork & Design > bachman.hu

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary


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György Ligeti: Requiem (1963-64/97) - For soprano, mezzo soprano, two mixed choirs and orchestra

01 Introitus 5:42
02 Kyrie 6:52
03 De die judicii 9:09
04 Lacrimosa 5:04

György Ligeti: Apparitions (1958-59) - For orchestra

05 Lento 6:39
06 Agitato 2:40

György Ligeti: San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74) - For orchestra

07 San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74) - For orchestra 12:48
Total time 49:16

György Ligeti: Requiem (1963-64/97) - For soprano, mezzo soprano, two mixed choirs and orchestra

01 Introitus 5:42
02 Kyrie 6:52
03 De die judicii 9:09
04 Lacrimosa 5:04

György Ligeti: Apparitions (1958-59) - For orchestra

05 Lento 6:39
06 Agitato 2:40

György Ligeti: San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74) - For orchestra

07 San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74) - For orchestra 12:48
Total time 49:16

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Text des Beihefts auf Deutsch - hier klicken


From his youth, György Ligeti was attracted by the idea of composing a requiem. He made the first sketches while still in Hungary in 1953, then after a few years, in 1956, set to work on it again, but both versions remained unfinished. After emigrating to western Europe, learning about post-war trends in modern music and finding his own musical idiom, he picked up the project again in 1963. Work on the composition took one-and-a-half years, and the world premiere took place in March 1965 in Stockholm.

In spite of the fact that by setting the text of the mass for the dead to music Ligeti was continuing a tradition that goes back centuries, his work is far from traditional, and not remotely related to previous specimens of the genre. One of the most noticeable peculiarities of Ligeti’s setting is that it does not contain the complete text of the requiem; only the Introitus, the Kyrie and the Sequence. (He used the text of the Communio a few years later in an independent choral work, Lux aeterna.) The other is that in Ligeti’s Requiem the liturgical text is only latently present, as if hidden beneath the surface of the work. The emphasis is not on the meaning or affective contents of the text, but on the sound of it, together with all its sensual ’physical’ properties – colour, thickness, massiveness, and density.

The sound world of the Requiem is characterized almost throughout by tightly bound, knotty polyphonic textures and chromatically filled complexes of notes. The means through which Ligeti achieves this are partly the sheer mass of the performers, and partly the way in which he weaves the voices together. The Requiem is scored for vast forces: a large twenty-part choir, large orchestra and soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists. The twenty-part choir enables him to create a densely woven polyphonic texture in which the individual parts can no longer be heard separately: they move to both complement one another and cancel one another out. The result is a kind of iridescent sound, which within is busy with contrapuntal activity, but from without seems static. This technique, which Ligeti termed ’micropolyphony’ was to form the basis for the characteristic sound of his music written in the sixties.

The music of the Introitus (Requiem aeternam) is static in nature, and the polyphonic fabric seems to remain stationary. In reality however a slow change takes place: from the initial low register of the basses the music creeps slowly higher, and following the utter darkness the sound gradually becomes ’chiaroscuro’ and is permeated by light. This illumination of the sound coincides with the text lux perpetua (eternal light) sung by the choir. The music of the Kyrie is more mobile: the billowing fabric of the choir evokes a gesture of yearning supplication and also a repeated sobbing. The central part of the work, and its weightiest, is the setting of the sequence Dies irae by Thomas of Celano. This movement is a peculiar harbinger of Ligeti’s opera of a decade later, Le Grand Macabre, which also takes as its theme the last judgement – albeit in a thoroughly ironic, perverted manner. Ligeti’s vision in the Requiem however is not remotely ironic: it is petrifying. After the static Introitus and the continually rolling Kyrie, the Sequence brings the most dramatic contrasts in terms of tempo, dynamics, register and tone colour. Ligeti set the last two strophes of the Sequence (Lacrimosa) in a separate movement, which acts as an epilogue to the entire work, as if we were looking back on the previous movements from a great distance in time and space. The choir falls silent, only the two soloists sing, over a reduced orchestral accompaniment. Written by a man who lived through the cataclysms of the twentieth century, Ligeti’s Requiem is a poignant, intense statement on death and fear.


Apparitions occupies a special place in the oeuvre of György Ligeti. This was his first instrumental work following his emigration to the West, and also the first work to gain him significant international recognition: its world premiere took place in June 1960 at the Cologne festival of the International Society for New Music. Written in 1958 and 1959, this composition attests to the sea-change Ligeti went through in his musical thinking after 1956. So it is all the more surprising that, according to the composer himself, the first version of the piece was drafted in summer 1956 in Budapest. Originally named ’Visions’, this score is unfortunately lost. The following year in Cologne Ligeti began a new version, now entitled Apparitions, but he was not satisfied with this either, and only created the final form of the work in 1958–59. In this way Apparitions acts as a bridge between Ligeti’s work before and after his flight to the West.

Ligeti’s route led from Budapest via Vienna to Cologne, where for over a year he worked in the electronic music studio of the West German Radio, one of the strongholds of modern music. There he had the chance to discover the new music of the time, which in Hungary had been completely barred to him. The greatest novelty for Ligeti’s musical thinking was without doubt his encounter with the technique of electronic composition. He composed two completed pieces and one unfinished one for this medium, which was brand new to him and required a totally different way of compositional thinking from what he had hitherto encountered.

His in-depth work in the electronic medium is palpable in Apparitions for large orchestra too: the traditional ’building blocks’ of music, melody, rhythm and harmony, have disappeared; their place is taken by pure ’sounds’. The composer matches these one to the other piece by piece – similarly to the way in electronic music he spliced pieces of magnetic tape together. These sounds are highly varied: some are utterly static, long drawn out, iridescent textures displaying a refined inner motion; some are built up or disintegrate as they sound; and there are also more solid, noise-like and splinter-like sound events. All these can supplant one another unexpectedly, but they also melt imperceptibly one into the other. While the listener is riveted by the separate apparently mutually independent sounds, in fact a one-way irrevocable process is taking place. A musical form comes into being which (to use the composer’s words) consists of a continual interaction of states and events, and in which none of the previous states can return. This irrevocability is partly counterbalanced by the large form of the work: the second movement is a free variation of the first.

San Francisco Polyphony

If there is one compositional technique that preoccupied György Ligeti throughout almost his whole life, in his most varied stylistic periods, then it is polyphony. The habit of thinking in multiple parts, the idea of many separate building blocks and microstructures going to make up a global structure (in which the building blocks seem to ’dissolve’ and are no longer individually distinguishable) are principles that run throughout Ligeti’s oeuvre. But the manifestation of this idea takes on ever different forms in the composer’s oeuvre.

From the mid-1960s Ligeti’s ’micropolyphonic’ writing gradually transformed: in the harmonic and rhythmic neutrality created by a densely woven polyphonic texture more and more distinct melodic shapes and rhythmic processes appeared. Alongside, and instead of, the static, blurred sound-fabric, we hear steadily more melodic lines, but they are divergent, of varying speed and characterized by differing metrical-rhythmic articulation. If Apparitions was the beginning of Ligeti’s ’micropolyphonic’ technique and style, and the Requiem was the culmination of it, then San Francisco Polyphony (as well as being the moment before a change in style) was the last stage on the path towards a more transparent, more contoured ’new polyphony’.

The work begins in the middle register of the orchestra, then the musical material slowly diverges and polarizes, leaving a gaping vacuum in the centre. The second half of the piece is virtuoso in nature: we hear fragments of ascending scales and flashing sounds, then the musical texture gradually thins out, and finally amongst an accumulation of motives the piece comes to an abrupt halt.

The title of this one-movement piece refers partly to the compositional technique (Polyphony) and partly to the venue of the world premiere (San Francisco). The piece was written for the sixtieth anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and was premiered in January 1975 conducted by Seiji Ozawa.

Márton Kerékfy
Translated by Richard Robinson

Susan Parry

Susan Parry studied at the University of Birmingham and the Royal Academy in London before becoming a company principal at English National Opera. Her roles there have included Nicklausse (The Tales of Hoffmann), Brangane (Tristan and Isolde), Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier), Helene (War and Peace), Countess Geschwitz (Lulu), Susie (The Silver Tassie), Fricka (The Ring Cycle), and Dido (The Trojans).

In 1996 she made her debut with The Royal Opera in Verdi’s Alzira and has appeared with Welsh National Opera as Thisbe (La Cenerentola) and the Witch (Hansel and Gretel). Opera appearances abroad have included Iphigenie in Japan and Miss Jessel (The Turn of the Screw), Herodias (Salome) and Judith (Duke Bluebeard’s Castle) for Cincinnati Opera.

Much in demand as a concert artist she has worked regularly with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and has appeared with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in performances of Nicholas Maw’s Scenes and Arias, Pierre Boulez’s Le Visage nuptial conducted by the composer at the BBC Proms, and in concert performances of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, also conducted by Pierre Boulez. Other appearances at the BBC Proms have included Imelda (Oberto), Tebaldo (Don Carlos) and Helen (King Priam).

A popular artist in Spain, Susan Parry has appeared with the ORTVE Orchestra in Madrid as well as the orchestras of Barcelona, Bilbao and Galicia.

Susan Parry’s recordings include Fyodor (Boris Godunov), Countess Geschwitz (Lulu) and Les Noces with the Rias Kammerchor.

Barbara Hannigan

Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan studied at the University of Toronto with Mary Morrison, at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with Meinard Kraak, and privately with Neil Semer. A frequent guest of the Berlin Philharmonic, she has also performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Bayerischen Rundfunk, Helsinki Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, l'Orchestre National de France, London's Philharmonia Orchestra, Paris Opera, Netherlands Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Avanti, Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, and the AskoSchoenberg Ensemble, among others.

She has received much acclaim for her performances of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, a tour de force for soprano and orchestra which she has sung across Europe and North America. She has also performed the other major vocal works of Ligeti, making her BBC Proms debut in 2003 with Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures and the London Sinfonietta, with further performances at Lincoln Center in New York, and Ligeti’s Requiem with the Bamberger Symphoniker, the WDR in Cologne, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de Radio France and the Bayerischen Rundfunk.

She made her debut at La Monnaie in 2009 with Gepopo and Venus in the new La Fura dels Baus production of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, and sang Gepopo in the recent New York Philharmonic production at Lincoln Center directed by Dougas Fitch.

Her operatic roles include The Rape of Lucretia (Lucia), Dido and Aeneas (Belinda), Così fan tutte (Fiordiligi), The Rake’s Progress (Anne Truelove), the title role in Janaček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Armida in Händel’s Rinaldo and Dalinda in Händel’s Ariodante.

Barbara Hannigan has over 75 world premieres to her credit, many of them operas including Pascal Dusapin’s Passion at the Aix en Provence Festival, Louis Andriessen’s Writing to Vermeer (Saskia) with the Netherlands Opera, Jan van de Putte’s Wet Snow (Liza) with Holland’s National Reisopera, Michel van der Aa’s solo opera One for soprano, film and electronics, Luca Mosca’s Signor Goldoni (Despina) at La Fenice, and Gabrielle in the world première of Gerald Barry’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant at English National Opera.

She has worked with conductors including Reinbert de Leeuw, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez, Sir Simon Rattle, Pablo Heras-Casado, Thomas Ades, Kurt Masur, Jukka Pekka Saraste, Ingo Metzmacher, Alan Gilbert, Susanna Malkki, Peter Oundjian, Oliver Knussen, Jonathan Nott, Peter Rundel, Michael Gielen and Péter Eötvös, and has had the privilege of working with composers including György Ligeti, Louis Andriessen, Pascal Dusapin, Luca Francesconi, Toshio Hosokawa, Gerald Barry, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Péter Eötvös, Oliver Knussen and Henri Dutilleux.


Péter Eötvös

Péter Eötvös is one of the best known interpreters of 2Oth century music. He was born in Transsylvania, received diplomas from Budapest Academy of Music (composition) and Hochschule für Musik in Cologne (conducting).

Between 1968 and 1978 he performed regularly with the Stockhausen Ensemble and collabo-rated with the electronic music studio of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne. From 1978 he was subsequently named musical director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, a post he held until 1991.

From 1985 to 2008 Péter Eötvös held conducting titles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Radio Kamer Filharmonie Hilversum, the National Philharmonic Orchestra Budapest, the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. He continues as Principal Guest Conductor of the Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien. Other he has worked with include the most important radio orchestras in Europe, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra etc.

He has also worked in opera houses including La Scala Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera de Lyon, La Monnaie Brussels, Festival Opera Glyndebourne, Théâtre du Châtelet Paris, with directors including Luca Ronconi, Robert Altman, Klaus-Michael Grüber, Robert Wilson, Nikolaus Lehnhof, and Ushio Amagatsu.

In 1991 he founded the International Eötvös Institute and Foundation for young conductors and composers. Between 1992 and 2008 he was professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe, and at Cologne's Hochschule für Musik.

Composer, conductor and teacher, he combines all three roles in one very high-profile career. His music features regularly in the programmes of orchestras, contemporary music ensembles and festivals worldwide. His operas Love and Other Demons, Le Balcon, Angels in America, and Lady Sarashina followed Three Sisters by generating an ever-increasing number of new productions. Eötvös's most recent opera, Die Tragödie des Teufels, was premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper in February 2010.

He is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the Széchenyi Academy of Art in Budapest, the Sächsische Akademie der Künste in Dresden and of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.


WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne

In the more than sixty years of its existence, the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne has established itself as one of the most important European radio orchestras. Stylistic versatility is the special trademark of the WDR Symphony Orchestra.

Outstanding recordings of nineteenth-century symphonic music were made under the direction of Gary Bertini, the principal conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra from 1983 to 1991, who made it a leading performer of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies.

The reputation of the WDR Symphony Orchestra was heightened further by Semyon Bychkov, who as principal conductor between 1997 and 2010 presented numerous prize-winning and highly praised recordings of works by Dmitri Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. The tours with him in Europe, America and Asia considerably extended the international reputation of the WDR Symphony Orchestra.

The WDR Symphony Orchestra has made an important contribution to music history and to the cultivation of contemporary music through its numerous world premieres of works commissioned by the WDR and through its collaboration with outstanding composers of our time. Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Igor Stravinsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann are among the composers who have performed their works with the WDR Symphony Orchestra. The WDR Symphony
Orchestra’s special status is moreover documented by its large number of award-winning recordings of contemporary music.

The WDR Symphony Orchestra has acquired expertise in historic performance practice in Baroque and Classical works through its regular collaboration with conductors like Ton Koopman, Christopher Hogwood and Reinhard Goebel.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste became principal conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of the 2010/2011 season. The orchestra and the conductor can already look back at many years of working successfully together. Their performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at the Cologne Philharmonie in November 2009 was hailed by the press as the "dawn of a great era".


WDR Rundfunkchor Köln

Ever since 1947, the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln has been “the voice” of Westdeutscher Rundfunk. The North-Rhine Westphalian broadcasting region is just as much the chorus’s home as national and international stages.

The 48 members of the professional ensemble are particularly versatile as well as specialized singers. The musical spectrum of the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln ranges from medieval to contemporary compositions and from sacred music to operetta. ’A cappella’ concerts, full orchestral oratorios and solo vocal music feature in its profile as do symphonic repertoire, film music and opera.

In the past, the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln has performed more than 140 world and national premieres of pieces by composers such as Schoenberg, Henze, Stockhausen, Nono, Boulez, Zimmermann, Penderecki, Xenakis, Berio, Höller, Eötvös, Hosokawa, Pagh-Paan, Zender, Tüür and Mundry. The chorus is always on the move, pressing forward into new realms, passionately seeking out challenges and giving voice to the most difficult of scores. Yet its spectrum of work also includes invitations to amateurs to "Sing with the WDR Rundfunkchor" and the "Lilipuz" children’s radio family concerts.

Rupert Huber has been the chorus’s principle conductor since 2004. His creative programme schemes generate unique concerts offering audiences not only listening pleasure, but also new perspectives of assumedly well-known music. This work is documented in a number of CD releases.

In the 2011 season, Rupert Huber and the WDR Rundfunkchor perform at concerts in Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as at two NRW festivals. They open the "Utopie jetzt" festival in Mülheim for the third time and also give a guest performance at the Internationale Chorbiennale Aachen.

The 2011 season also sees David Marlow take over the position of Director of the WDR Rundfunkchor and thus responsibility for rehearsing the chorus for all important projects with WDR’s orchestras as well as collaborations with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Dresdner Philharmonie, the Beethoven Orchester Bonn and the Philharmonia Orchestra.


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