This release captures part of a concert given at New York's Carnegie Hall in January 2009; the concert was sponsored by the Hungarian Cultural Center in New York. Other pieces from the concert, featuring the same composers, are available elsewhere. But the program included here is nicely balanced between the two composers, György Ligeti and György Kurtág. Born within a few years of each other in the 1920s, they grew up in Bartók's long shadow but went in different directions, and their relationship is one of those that shows how closely opposites can be related. Ligeti's structures, whether in the instrumental Melodien (1971) with their tone clusters or the Cello Concerto (1966) with its drones, feature fragments that emerge from basically static backgrounds, generating an interplay of levels and planes that develop as a work or movement proceeds. Kurtág's music, by contrast, is spiky and abrupt. His Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova, Op. 17, is a collection of brief, often sardonic songs (in Russian) that push the voice into unfamiliar territory. The second set of Kurtág songs, Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova, Op. 41, was composed for the concert involved. Different as the styles of the two composers may be, and for all the influence they show from the western European avant-garde, they both retain a connection with the national and regional essence exemplified by Bartók. Hungary's UMZE Ensemble under Peter Eötvös captures this connection with a rhythmic drive and a grasp of overarching structure that is rewarded by sustained applause at the end. Recommended as something of a landmark for anyone interested in contemporary music of Eastern Europe.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova, Op. 17|
|Four poems of Anna Akhmatova, Op. 41|