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Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano

György Ligeti (b. 1923 - d. 2006)

Pekka Kuusisto (photo credit: Kaapo Kamu)

Pekka Kuusisto (photo credit: Kaapo Kamu)

Composer
György Ligeti (b. 1923 - d. 2006)
Composition Year
1982
Work Movements
1. Andantino con tenerezza
2. Vivacissimo molto ritmico
3. Alla marcia
4. Lamento. Adagio
Artists
Pekka Kuusisto [violin], Hervé Joulain [horn], Joonas Ahonen [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

The Horn Trio was Ligeti's first major work in the 1980's and it ended a five year compositional drought that lasted from 1977-1982. He himself describes this crisis as a general one affecting many composers of different generations, who were questioning the primacy of the Darmstadt School. The Trio was the piece with which he found his feet again. The work had been commissioned as a companion piece to the Brahms Trio and he saw it as an Hommage à Brahms so it necessitated a redefining of his relationship to musical tradition. Ligeti had of course been in the forefront of the avant-garde ever since his dramatic flight from Hungary in 1956 though, unlike figures such as Xenakis, Stockhausen, Cage and Boulez, he did not have an adversarial approach to the classical tradition. But neither was he a fan of the retro movement when it came to composition, it was important to emphasize that one was living in 1982 not 1882.

He begins the work with a false quotation from Beethoven's Les Adieux using it as a germinal motive and an emblematic warping of tradition. Beneath the idyllic nostalgic surface there are other radical factors at work despite a sonata form structure. He describes the heterogeneous tuning system of the Trio:

The piano plays as it is tuned, by definition, tempered. The violin tuned in pure fifths deviates from the tempered tuning considerably - as always with chamber music for strings and piano. In a tonal violin/piano sonata of the Classical or Romantic period the violinist tries to match the tuning of the piano to some degrees, at least in the slow movements. Though this always remains an approximation, it is part of the character of the genre. In my Trio I have taken the technical possibilities of the valve horn to its very limits, and not just in terms of virtuosity. Thus I did not really write for a valve horn in F and B-flat, but rather for a collection of natural horns. The sound would be much more beautiful on a true natural horn, but the horn player would then require a short pause to change crooks; as there is not time for this I wrote the piece for valve horn. Nevertheless I was thinking in terms of natural horns pitched in various keys and I indicate these in the score. In this way mostly untempered overtones occur, which tend to throw the violinist's fingers off their mark. This is intentional, part of the riddle of this non-manifest musical language.

The dynamic instructions for the second movement also include fresh, sparkling, light, gliding, dancing. An ostinato (3+3+2) runs all the way through the piano part, which the other parts mostly ignore. The third movement is a scherzo and trio, whose alla marcia inevitably invites comparison with Bartók. The violin part exactly doubles the piano at the start but gradually gets out of step causing all sorts of rhythmic complexities. There is a comparatively smoothly flowing middle section. In the reprise the horn adds all kinds of anarchically untempered interventions. The lamento last movement echoes the tragic fatalism in Brahms' slow movement. For Ligeti this was an unprecedented expression of emotion and its power at close quarters is overwhelming.

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Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano

Composer: György Ligeti (b. 1923 - d. 2006)
Performance date: Monday 1st July 2013
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer György Ligeti (b. 1923 - d. 2006)
Work Title Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano
Composition Year 1982
Work Movements 1. Andantino con tenerezza
2. Vivacissimo molto ritmico
3. Alla marcia
4. Lamento. Adagio
Artist(s) Pekka Kuusisto [violin], Hervé Joulain [horn], Joonas Ahonen [piano]
Performance Date Monday 1st July 2013
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:23:09
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Trio
Instrumentation vn, hn, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

The Horn Trio was Ligeti's first major work in the 1980's and it ended a five year compositional drought that lasted from 1977-1982. He himself describes this crisis as a general one affecting many composers of different generations, who were questioning the primacy of the Darmstadt School. The Trio was the piece with which he found his feet again. The work had been commissioned as a companion piece to the Brahms Trio and he saw it as an Hommage à Brahms so it necessitated a redefining of his relationship to musical tradition. Ligeti had of course been in the forefront of the avant-garde ever since his dramatic flight from Hungary in 1956 though, unlike figures such as Xenakis, Stockhausen, Cage and Boulez, he did not have an adversarial approach to the classical tradition. But neither was he a fan of the retro movement when it came to composition, it was important to emphasize that one was living in 1982 not 1882.

He begins the work with a false quotation from Beethoven's Les Adieux using it as a germinal motive and an emblematic warping of tradition. Beneath the idyllic nostalgic surface there are other radical factors at work despite a sonata form structure. He describes the heterogeneous tuning system of the Trio:

The piano plays as it is tuned, by definition, tempered. The violin tuned in pure fifths deviates from the tempered tuning considerably - as always with chamber music for strings and piano. In a tonal violin/piano sonata of the Classical or Romantic period the violinist tries to match the tuning of the piano to some degrees, at least in the slow movements. Though this always remains an approximation, it is part of the character of the genre. In my Trio I have taken the technical possibilities of the valve horn to its very limits, and not just in terms of virtuosity. Thus I did not really write for a valve horn in F and B-flat, but rather for a collection of natural horns. The sound would be much more beautiful on a true natural horn, but the horn player would then require a short pause to change crooks; as there is not time for this I wrote the piece for valve horn. Nevertheless I was thinking in terms of natural horns pitched in various keys and I indicate these in the score. In this way mostly untempered overtones occur, which tend to throw the violinist's fingers off their mark. This is intentional, part of the riddle of this non-manifest musical language.

The dynamic instructions for the second movement also include fresh, sparkling, light, gliding, dancing. An ostinato (3+3+2) runs all the way through the piano part, which the other parts mostly ignore. The third movement is a scherzo and trio, whose alla marcia inevitably invites comparison with Bartók. The violin part exactly doubles the piano at the start but gradually gets out of step causing all sorts of rhythmic complexities. There is a comparatively smoothly flowing middle section. In the reprise the horn adds all kinds of anarchically untempered interventions. The lamento last movement echoes the tragic fatalism in Brahms' slow movement. For Ligeti this was an unprecedented expression of emotion and its power at close quarters is overwhelming.