Webmaster: Len Mullenger
Seen and Heard International Concert Review
Ligeti: The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Miller Theater, Columbia University, New York City, 12.11.2005 (BH)
Ligeti: Mysteries of the Macabre (arr. Elgar Howarth in 1988, from Le Grand Macabre, 1974-77)
Ligeti: Ramifications (1968-69)
Ligeti: Sippal, doppal, nádihegedüvel (2000)
Ligeti: Violin Concerto (1989-93)
The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble
Timothy Weiss, conductor
Oberlin Percussion Group
Michael Rosen, conductor
Peter Evans, trumpet
Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano
Jennifer Koh, violin
Miller Theater has 688 seats, and every one was taken
last Saturday night for a sensationally played all-Ligeti
evening by a raft of talent from Oberlin College.
(For those outside the United States, this
college in Ohio is renowned for its music program.)
Although the Violin Concerto received
top billing, the remainder was every bit its equal,
beginning with a superb fragment of Ligeti’s
opera, Le Grand Macabre.
This is a seriously playful musical mind at
excerpt, Mysteries of the Macabre, was created
in 1987, when the scheduled soprano had to bow out
unexpectedly at the last minute, and conductor Elgar
Howarth recruited a trumpet player to do the part. It worked.
The other mountain comes toward it.
The wolves howl:
Do not crush us!
I, a mountain,
you, too, a mountain,
we are indifferent to that.
The second Táncdal (Dance Song) uses nonsense syllables
plus marimba and those slide whistles again, before
the glistening Kînai Templom
(Chinese temple) arrives with single-syllable
words perched among a glittering array of bells and
gongs. Kuli (Coolie) continues the Chinese theme,
becoming ever more frenzied, followed by the strangely
calm Alma alma (Tizenkettedik szimfónia) or Dream (Twelfth Symphony) – a sweetly
lilting folk song backed by the percussionists on
harmonicas. The sixth song, Keserédes
(67. Magyar etüd) /
Bitter-sweet (67th Hungarian etude)
resembles some kind of obscure Indian ritual mixed
with say, a melody by Noel Coward.
The final Szajkó (Parakeet) is a series of nonsense
syllables that evoke a raving chatterbox of a bird,
and shows the composer in love with the percussive
possibilities of the Hungarian language.
The cumulative effect is sort of like hearing
a joke in a foreign language; you can sense that it’s
funny but you don’t know why.