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Friday, March 23, 2018

Ligeti, Complete Etudes, Kei Takumi

One of the giants of Modernism, Gyorgy Ligeti is the kind of titan whose every work probably should be heard. Yet I have to admit there are many I have not as of yet. His Etudes Pour Piano (Sheva Collection 183) seems as good an example as any of a part of Ligeti that one should know. In this complete recording pianist Kei Takumi tackles these technically daunting works head-on. And with Ligeti, ever, no notes are there for no reason. The difficulties are put in front of the performer ever for a musical result. It is a great credit to Kei Takumi that he sees in the masses of black notes a way they must be sounded for energetic, expressionistic significance. And he handles the quiet, contrasting sections with sensitivity and proper intent.

The Etudes consist of three groupings: A Premier livre (1984-85), a Deuxieme livre (1988-94) and a Troisieme livre (1995-2001). Together they function as a wide interconnected expanse, densely racing ahead, then thoughtfully pausing, then bursting forward again, creating a matrix of dynamic excitement one simply has to experience because words cannot supplant or ever quite approximate how it feels to hear the music. It is a kind of Promethean struggle of solitary  human with an otherwise inert mass of wood, metal, ivory and whatever else, the piano being something of vast potential that Ligeti provides a key to, the mastery of which is formidable and not for the untalented and technically unprepared. This is music that will not be sight read with any hope of the revelatory. It is music to sink into over a long period of time. That is as true for the performer as it is to the listener. You do not just throw this music on and go about your business. That surely won't do.

Instead, pay attention. Let the sounds wash over you and after a few listens you will know that you are in the presence of something profound. I recommend you do that.

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