Skip to page content

Composed: 1951

Length: c. 12 minutes

Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd = English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 2 trumpets, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, snare drum), and strings

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performances

Ligeti's 1951 Concert Românesc (Romanian Concerto) would seem to have fit the new requirements well enough. The work is based in part on actual Romanian folk music Ligeti had studied at the Folklore Institute of Bucharest in 1949, in part on his own folk-like invention "in the spirit of the village bands." Like his compatriots Bartók and Kodály before him, Ligeti had a genuine interest in folk music. As a child in the border region of Transylvania (then in Hungary, now in Romania), he had encountered local musicians wearing animal masks and playing wild music on violin and bagpipes, a memory that remained vivid even many years later. Yet his Concerto's modestly modern touches, which seem wholly unobjectionable today, were enough to cause trouble: it was banned after a single rehearsal in Budapest, and it did not receive a public performance until 1971. The Concerto's four short movements follow one another without pause. Of particular interest is the slow third movement, in which (perhaps echoing another childhood memory, of alpine horns heard in the Carpathian mountains) Ligeti instructs the hornists to use natural tuning, without valves, an idea that was to return strongly in his music of the 1980s and 1990s, such as the Horn Trio and the Hamburg Concerto. The finale ventures nearer to Bartók, both to his fast, Romanian-inspired dance finales (such as that of the Concerto for Orchestra) and to his garish modernist ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin. This atmosphere, too, would return later in Ligeti's career, as in the finale of his 1992 Violin Concerto.

- Steven Stucky is Consulting Composer for New Music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

05/07