Last night’s Lakeside concert was preceded by a recital by pianist Jeremy Denk. Denk tossed off three of Gyorgy Ligeti’s Book One etudes — Cordes a vide, Fanfares, and Arc-en-ciel. To help with the etudes, Denk also programmed Debussy and Liszt. Liszt’s “Rhapsodie espagnole” was a raucous affair, but for me, there was plenty of razzle-dazzle in the etudes — especially in Fanfares, the fourth Book One etude. J, my frequent concert companion, preferred Arc-en-ciel for its Debussy-like qualities. The beauty of the Ligeti etudes is how they synthesize Lisztian knuckle-busting difficulty with impressionistic color.
There are a handful of recordings of the Book One and Book Two etudes and at least one complete recording of the complete Book Three etudes. Pierre Laurent-Aimard’s recording on Sony is probably the best. Idil Biret’s Naxos recording is good — technically — but antiseptic. Aimard’s effort is technically very good, but also he seems to understand the composer better. Perhaps that’s why Aimard was Ligeti’s pianist of choice for the Sony recording.
If you didn’t see the recital or hear it on KING-FM I’m sorry.
Ligeti was one of the true masters of the last century and continued to influence composition up until he died in 2006. There aren’t too many pianists carrying Ligeti’s etudes around with them or even willing to tackle them.
If you want a taste of what you missed check out the following video of Aimard performing a selection of Ligeti’s etudes.