Gyorgy Ligeti,Continuum (1970)
Born in 1923 to Hungarian parents in Dicsoszentmàrton (now Tarnarveni) in Transylvania, Romania, Gyorgy Ligeti studied with Farkas, Veress and Jàrdànyi at the Budapest Academy, where he began teaching in 1950. During this period he followed the prevailing Kodàly - Bartòk style in his works while also writing more adventurous pieces (First Quartet, 1954) that had to remain unpublished. In 1956 he left Hungary for Vienna. He worked at the electronic music studio in Cologne (1957-8) and came to international prominence with his Atmosphères (1961), which works with slowly changing orchestral clusters. This led to teaching appointments in Stockholm (from 1961), Stanford (1972) and Hamburg (from 1973). Meanwhile he developed the 'cloud' style in his Requiem (1965) and Lontano for orchestra (1967), while writing an absurdist diptych for vocal soloists and ensemble: Aventures (1966) and Nouvelles aventures (1966). His interests in immobile drifts and mechanical processes are seen together in his Second Quartet (1968) and Chamber Concerto (1970), while the orchestral Melodien (1971) introduced a tangle of melody. The combination of these elements, in music of highly controlled fantasy and excess, came in his surreal opera Le grand macabre (1978). His subsequent output has been diminished by ill-health, though it includes a Horn Trio (1982) in which perverse calculation is carried into Romanticism. Other later works include Monument, Selbstportrat, Bewegung, for two pianos (1976), two pieces for harpsichord (1978), two Hungarian studies for chorus (1983) and a book of piano studies (1985).
Continuum was originally written in 1970 for harpsichord and versions for barrel organ and for two player pianos have been recorded under the composer's direction. Due to its extreme speed, a mechanical performance of the piece (like the barrel organ or two player piano versions) is perhaps ideal. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first performance on two marimbas.
Continuum is a steady stream of notes which are played "as fast as possible so that the individual notes can hardly be perceived, but rather merge into a continuum."
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