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Review: Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble pays tribute to Hungarian composer

| Monday, July 26, 2010

New music enthusiasts don't only look to the future. Weekend concerts by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble were a belated homage to Gyorgi Ligeti, the Hungarian composer who died in 2006 and was one of the most admired composers of his generation.

The program was built around Ligeti's "Musica Ricerata" -- 11 movements for solo piano written in the early 1950s that were constructed out of sets of notes -- starting with only two pitches in the first piece and concluding with a piece based on tone row of 12 pitches.

Pianist Conor Hanick played Ligeti's music with lucidity, power and fine control. He also was alert to Ligeti's wit. In the fourth movement, "Tempo di valse," Hanick's crisp articulation gave natural emphasis to meter changes while his tempo flexibility produced traditional emotional feelings.

Ligeti's music was garnished between each movement with more contemporary music. Emmanuel Sejourne's "Vous avez de feu?" (Do you have a light?) was virtually silent. The only sound was that of cigarette lighters being lit, but the point was the visual patterns that were set up and played with. Theirry de Mey's "Musique de Tables" has musicians' hands dance across the tables or, in this case, three wooden tablets Saturday night at City Theatre. It succeeds through rhythmic coherence and the wit of the choreography for the hands. Other shorter pieces served differing aspirations from seriousness to facetiousness.

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