The five CDs of Teldec's The Ligeti Project have been released individually, and each features extraordinarily fine, well-recorded versions of some of the composer's most important works. This compilation of the five discs is far from a complete collection of Ligeti's output; none of the piano music is represented (except for arrangements for accordion of several movements of Musica Ricercata), or the string quartets, and some crucial pieces, like the Trio for horn, violin, and piano; Volumina for organ; and Lux Aeterna, for unaccompanied voices, are missing. Even so, the set is the most comprehensive introduction to Ligeti, and its budget price makes it especially attractive.
The most appealing thing about the set is the number of premiere recordings it includes, several of which seem destined to join the ranks of the composer's most important pieces, especially Clocks and Clouds, for 12 female voices and orchestra, and Síppal, dobbal, nádihegeduvel, for mezzo-soprano and percussion, as well as some less significant but engaging works like Apparitions and Concert românesc, both for orchestra, and Mysteries of the Macabre, Elgar Howarth's arrangement of excerpts from the opera Le grand macabre. The performances, most of them by artists steeped in Ligeti's music, are consistently excellent. These may not all be the definitive versions (Ensemble Modern's recording of the piano concerto may be more incisive than the one recorded here, and Claudio Abbado's reading of Atmosphères with the Vienna Philharmonic may be more, well, atmospheric), but they are nonetheless consistently strong and convincing performances. The Schönberg Ensemble's performance of Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures is easily one of the most entertaining and visceral versions on disc. Max Bonnay's arrangement for accordion of eight pieces from Musica Ricercata is a reminder of what a sly and engaging sense of humor the composer had. Katalin Károlyi's singing in Síppal, dobbal, nádihegeduvel is simply staggering, and the striking 2000 piece reveals yet new developments in Ligeti's creative imaginings, even at the age of 77. Reinbert de Leeuw, leading the ASKO Ensemble and Schönberg Ensemble, is one of the composer's most experienced and ardent interpreters, and he's involved in about half of the performances on the set. Jonathan Nott, leading the Berlin Philharmonic, is also strongly represented by idiomatic, insightful performances. Teldec's sound, even in the live recordings, is consistently top-notch. Highly recommended.