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Ligeti, Knussen & Goehr

György Ligeti Ramifications; Melodien
Oliver Knussen Requiem - Songs for Sue London premiere
Alexander Goehr Behold the Sun
Ligeti Piano Concerto

London Sinfonietta/George Benjamin
Claire Booth soprano
Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 13 March 2007

Alexander Goehr's Behold the Sun (revived for his 75th celebrations) spotlit Claire Booth again, a month after her triumphant assumption of Dusapin's Niobé. Looking magnificent, and giving every sign of enjoying herself on stage, she had a hard nut to crack.

Perversely and dangerously ungrateful for the soprano voice, Behold the Sun's diatribe of 'chiliastic fury' could be followed with the text in the programme. Booth did all that could be done for it, and was duly applauded, but no way could many of the words become audible at the bizarre tesssitura demanded. Some contemporary (male) composers do seem to have a penchant for forcing high sopranos to screech...

Oliver Knussen's Requiem for Sue Knussen is a cooler memorial tribute to the premature death of his wife, and is more likely to find an enduring place in the repertoire. Claire Booth has made it her own, and she has a striking platform presence which embraces the audience.

I was sorry that the concert was not framed by the ground-breaking early Ligeti works in the order as listed in advance and above; it was good to hear again the '69/'71 Ramifications and Melodien of a composer who never stopped experimenting and creating new ways to assemble sounds and musical lines. The intricacies of the piano concerto failed to speak to us equally eloquently on this occasion.

Ligeti's The Tempest and Alice in Wonderland projects sadly never arrived. It is possible that his Piano Etudes, which every 21C pianist feels bound to tackle as they must Chopin's and Debussy's, will prove his most enduring legacy.


Hear the concert on Radio 3's Hear and Now, and read George Benjamin's own tribute to Ligeti in The Guardian

For a far more appreciative review, see Anne Ozorio in Seen&Heard.