Ligeti: Cello Concerto; Chamber Concerto for 13 instruments; Melodien for orchestra; Piano Concerto

Reviewed on Mon 31 Jul, 2017

The small group provides clarity of texture, but lacks depth of tone. That clarity is slightly compromised by the unfocussed sound recording, the ensemble and soloists all frustratingly distant.

These three concertos, plus the orchestral work Melodien, provide a valuable overview of Ligeti’s stylistic development, from the experimental Cello Concerto of 1966 to the more melodic and approachable Piano Concerto, completed in 1988. The performances are given by a chamber ensemble, the Norwegian group BIT20. One to a part is ideal for the Chamber Concerto, but less so elsewhere. The small group provides clarity of texture, but lacks depth of tone. That clarity is slightly compromised by the unfocussed sound recording, the ensemble and soloists all frustratingly distant. Christian Poltéra and Joonas Ahonen are competent soloists, though more virtuoso flair would be welcome from Ahonen in the Piano Concerto. And conductor Baldur Brönnimann rarely pushes the players for rhythmic incision or bite. The results are attractive, but often bland. Pierre Boulez's DG recordings remain the benchmark in this repertoire, although Brönnimann may be a safer option for listeners who find Boulez too aggressive here.
–Gavin Dixon