György Ligeti

Ramifications, for 12 strings (or string orchestra)

    Description by Robert Kirzinger

    Ramifications can be performed either with twelve solo strings or with a string orchestra in twelve parts. The forces are divided into two groups: the first is made up of three violins, viola, cello, and double bass; the second is four violins, viola, and cello. The latter group plays retuned, to a quarter-tone above the first group. Ligeti uses a rhythmic process in Ramifications that's similar to a technique used in the harpsichord piece Continuum (1968), written around the same time, in which fast-repeating small motifs phase with one another forming new rhythmic "nodes" and pulsing macro-rhythms. In his earlier Atmosphères (1961), Ligeti created an amorphous, undefined texture by juxtaposing the same melodic material in many different tempos. In Ramifications he applies an analogous principle to pitch. By tuning the two groups of instruments a quarter-tone apart, he initiated a performance situation in which the two groups will subconsciously attempt to retune to each other. The different degrees to which individual players will make this "correction" produces the unfocussed harmonic world of Ramifications: there are no "pure" chromatic or diatonic harmonies, nor are there "pure" quarter-tone harmonies. It is the potential of entropy that Ligeti enjoys, from these intonational vagueries to the semantic absurdity of the Aventures pieces, to the failing mechanical apparatus of the Chamber Concerto and Poème symphonique. Ramifications begins similarly to the Cello Concerto (1966), with a narrow range of pitches gradually expanded while also ascending. The ascent leads to near-stasis before the texture thickens and something like a true melody intervenes, fleetingly. Sudden changes in dynamics mark the second half of the piece, in which the predominant texture reverts to phase-shifting rhythmic patterns. At about the seven-minute mark, double bass at its lowest range signals the beginning of the end. High harmonics in the violins join the bass in a reflection of the closing moments of the first movement of the Cello Concerto.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646028580
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894794261
    2012 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4790567
    2012 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099962790
    2010 EMI Classics
    2008 Teldec 2564 696735
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 477 6443-GH4
    2003 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000141102
    2003 Teldec 8573-88263-2
    1999 Col Legno 20041
    1995 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    1993 Wergo 60162
    Saarländischen Rundfunks 372
    Col Legno 31840
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 4232442
    Cypres 5606