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Lukas Ligeti Mystery System

Pattern Transformation;
Moving Houses; Independence; New York to Neptune; Delta Space

Amadinda Percussion Group
Károly Bojtos; Aurél Holló; Zoltán Rácz; Zoltán Váczi

Ralph Farris: viola;
Dorothy Lawson: cello;
Todd Reynolds; Mary Rowel: violins
Stefan Rodesco: violin, viol; Denys Viollet: cello
Kathleen Supové: piano

TZADIK TZ 7099 [53 mins]

I first knew of Lukas Ligeti at Huddersfield in 2000, when Amadinda played one of his pieces alongside songs with percussion by his famous father Georgy. It was probably the 1988 work Pattern Transformation, which they brought to my local Blackheath Halls two years later, and which opens this fascinating programme.

Amadinda is a great ensemble and Lukas Ligeti is fortunate to have its four players gracing his debut CD, sharing two marimbas to open it. Pattern Transformation brings to mind at first Reich, Nancarrow and Ligeti père, before quickly establishg this young percussionist/composer's own individual voice.

Moving Houses, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet (the players here excellent deputies for them), moves a theme around, through Western Africa, Gypsy Romania, Hardanger Norway and even takes in a Beatles song, which most listeners will recognise.... It is delightfully intriguing and encompasses these disparate influences with a light touch.

Independence is a substantial, fast quartet for Amadinda's collection of percussion instruments, those first heard unpitched, later joined by the pitched instruments. Whilst owing something to the American minimalists, it is notable for having strong rhythm without any downbeat, the players as independent as the four limbs of a great jazz drummer.

Drum machine and string quartet join forces for the concise New York to Neptune (previously released on Naive O899) creating structures with basic electronic equipment that could not be played by living musicians alone.

Finally Delta Space, in which pianist and computer 'play the same keyboard simultaneously, fighting for space', the beginning very much like one of Nancarrow's impossible studies for player piano. A sampler joins in with sounds of African instruments; pianist and computer interact to form 'a cascade of similar melodies' and the music roams farther afield, the whole becoming increasingly complex and exhilarating.

An absorbing CD which I have played again and again; something I rarely have time or inclination to do! Good quality recordings and only one caveat, the rather perverse design of Heung-Heung Chin. His white on black looks OK but presents problems for scanning the track list! And a strong magnifying glass under a bright light was essential to try to read the gold on brown track timings and the disc number; even with those it proved impossible to identify or decipher the music of one of the scores offered on the back of the insert leaflet (see image above) - offered for what purpose? Just as a pretty picture??

The Times has carried correspondence recently (Help the aged August 05 & 09) in which it is suggested that "spectacles which mimic the vision of someone in their seventies be worn by those designing the small print on packaging - -"; graphic artists in the record business take note! And lastly, why so coy about the Total Time? To avoid having to add up the almost invisible figures, I transported the disc to the one of my four CD players which does the sum for me automatically! Well under an hour it may be, but this is a beautifully planned and executed package, and you can use the time you save by playing again the tracks you like best.

Afrikan Machinery

TZADIK TZ 8054 [61 mins]

The increasingly famous son of "the late, great Georgy Ligeti" (I first heard them in concert together at Blackheath in 2002) Lukas Ligeti's new (mainly) solo CD for TZADIK reinforces my enthusiasm above. He plays on electronic percussion his own creations, which derive centrally from his love of African drumming, especially West African Mandé, with improvisations utilising his mastery of motion based, polyrhythmic drumming and enhanced by electronic techniques. It is dragging me into the newest worlds of today's music, at first disorientating, but soon captivating.

Now well into my eighties, I find myself less hostile to Heung-Heung Chin's design this time; it is challenging and though the print still needs (for me) a magnifying glass, it is worth the effort. The colour printing of the artwork is subtle, with positive/negative images that make you look hard to comprehend the graphic work.

The cover photo, of solar panels for a Sudan hut is brilliant, and the whole thing is produced to highest standards, a tribute to the younger Ligeti's researches and innovations and to the large team behind the project.

Whatever your usual musical diet, do try it. Tzadik is still coy about toatal duration; it's over two hours if your play it twice, as you'll surely want to...

Peter Grahame Woolf



HUNGARY IN FOCUS at Blackheath Halls 5-12 July 2002
John CAGE, Peter EOTVOS, Lukas & Georgy LIGETI etc AMADINDA with Katalin Karolyi (mezzo-soprano) 5 July 2002 (PGW)

AMADINDA is the leading Hungarian percussion group and one of the world's greatest. It was formed in 1984 & first encountered by this writer at London's Almeida Theatre in James Wood's groundbreaking Percussion Festival 1988, the first European percussion festival ever, and a revelation that a whole series of concerts devoted entirely to percussion could be completely satisfying. - - Now percussion festivals are everywhere, and the high virtuosity of leading percussionists is in danger of being taken for granted.

Amadinda was reviewed in the Huddersfield Festival 2000 in a very similar programme to that at Blackheath:- - -

- - Huddersfield's day of percussion ended spectacularly, with a return visit after 11 years by the Amadinda Percussion Group , bringing from Budapest a lorry-load (or two?) of bizarre and exotic instruments they had accumulated in the meantime. Their three hour programme began with a marimba piece for the four players by Lukas Ligeti (son of Gyorgy), included three of the pioneering works of the early '40s by John Cage, and concluded with the UK premiere of seven economically scored little songs by Gyorgy Ligeti for mezzo-soprano (Katalin Karolyi) with percussion. - -
Peter Grahame Woolf

Photo credit: Chien-Yin Chen

© Peter Grahame Woolf