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Work of the Week – György Ligeti: Macabre Collage

An orchestral work that contains explosives and twelve mechanical car horns… must have been written by Ligeti! Exactly 30 years ago, English conductor and composer Elgar Howarth put together the Macabre Collage, an orchestral suite based on György Ligeti’s only opera Le Grand Macabre. However, the arrangement was withdrawn in 1997 as several sections had become irrelevant after revisions to the opera. In 2021, these revisions were incorporated into the Macabre Collage. The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra will present the first performance of the revised version on 10 December. Brad Lubman will conduct the concert at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

Macabre Collage – the most comprehensive orchestral piece by György Ligeti

Ligeti’s works take on rigorously concentrated forms. Throughout his life, the composer never allowed himself to exalt in his newly invented tonal colouring, rhythms and forms, always composing relatively short orchestral works that would barely fill a slot in a symphony concert. For this reason, Howarth compiled the Macabre Collage, which is Ligeti’s most comprehensive piece for orchestra with a playing time of 20 minutes. Now the orchestral work is available for performances again in the revision undertaken in 2021, providing an exciting addition to the repertoire ahead of Ligeti’s centenary on 28 May 2023.

My opera is a kind of black farce, a ridiculous piece, humorous but utterly tragic at the same time […]. At the centre of the play stands the fear of dying, the impossibility to change fate and the actions and efforts undertaken in vain to escape death. One of the strategies used to avoid this destiny is the attempt to ridicule death. György Ligeti

With the premiere of Macabre Collage, the NDR launches its concert series planned for 2022 to mark Ligeti’s 99th birthday. Ligeti’s centenary will be celebrated with numerous events in his honour starting next summer. In the link below “Centenary #Ligeti100”, you will find our Schott Journal with a focus on Ligeti as well as a playlist of his most important works and further resources related to the anniversary.