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Work of the Week – György Ligeti: Ramifications

On 22 September György Ligeti’s Ramifications will be performed in Oslo by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Per Kristian Skalstad. Later in the week, another performance will be given at the festival Les Musicales de Quiberon conducted by Pascal Gallois on 25 September.

Ligeti’s compositions from the early 1960s employ dense compositional structures, as in pieces such as Atmosphères (1961), but his later works become increasingly unstructured. Ramifications (1968-69) exemplifies Ligeti’s development of what he termed “musical net-formations,” a method of composition in which many small repeated musical motifs are layered so intricately, that when played, they cannot be discerned separately by the listening ear.

Ligeti’s Ramifications – From “dense and static” to “fragmented and agile”

Composed for string orchestra or 12 solo strings, Ramifications divides the players into two groups. Half of the instruments are tuned to a slightly higher pitch, resulting in an inescapable dissonance. The 12 musical parts then each move independently in detailed repeating patterns, yet layered in such close proximity of pitch that the detail becomes impossible to perceive. In only a few places do these layered strands disentangle, resulting in brief moments of more unified harmony.

Ramifications is an end point of sorts in my development from ‘dense and static’ to ‘fragmented and agile’. Especially in the areas where the musical material is tightly meshed, a whole new kind of ‘uncertain’ harmony appears, as if the harmonies have ‘rotted’. Ramifications has a strong taste and decay has permeated the music. – György Ligeti

Further performances of Ligeti’s music this week include Études pour piano with Boris Berezovsky on 19 September at Beethovenfest Bonn, and Lontano with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Kirill Petrenko at the National Theatre in Munich on 19 and 20 September. Mysteries of the Macabre will be played three times in the next fortnight: on 20 September by the Philharmonisches Orchester Gießen conducted by Michael Hofstetter with soprano Marie Friederike Schöder, and on 23 and 25 September by the Düsseldorf Symphoniker conducted by Alexandre Bloch, with Eir Inderhaug as soloist at the Tonhalle in Dusseldorf.