Various Artists

Györgi Ligeti: Atmosphères

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Part of Deutsche Grammophon's multi-volume 20C series, which presents the key works of 20th century music, this disc of György Ligeti's adventurous music provides a helpful introduction to the composer. The programming of such innovative compositions as Volumina for organ, Lux aeterna for a cappella choir, Organ Study No. 1, and the orchestral pieces Lontano, Ramifications, and Melodien, gives the listener as rounded a portrait of Ligeti as anyone might need on a first hearing. But the recording of Atmosphères by Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic is essential listening for anyone interested in modern orchestral music. While Ligeti's well-crafted and ingenious creations always showed his skills as an instrumental colorist and a pioneer in extended instrumental techniques, there is a magical expression to Atmosphères' drifting clusters and evanescent timbres that puts it among the masterpieces of its time. Once heard, Atmosphères is never forgotten, and its influence among composers of the last half of the 20th century is easy to hear, especially in film scores. Next to Atmosphères, Lux aeterna might well be considered a greatest hit for Ligeti, from its memorable use in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because these are reissues of analog recordings, and in the case of Atmosphères and Lontano the recordings were live, the sound of this disc is fairly variable and a little noisy but still listenable.

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