Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Off to meet the Star Child

Sort of outside the sphere of this blog, but the passing of a great artist shouldn't go unmentioned:
Fastidious and self-critical, Mr. Ligeti demanded high standards from those around him. But where he felt sympathy, he could be open, warm and generous. He knew his worth, but he did not make that a barrier between himself and life or let it dampen his curiosity.

"I am in a prison," he once explained. "One wall is the avant-garde, the other is the past. I want to escape."

...As a man who grew up in Hungary under German and Soviet tyrannies, when home was exactly where you did not want to be, who moved to Western Europe after the Russians extinguished Hungarian independence, and who had been footloose ever since, Mr. Ligeti had no simple notion of where he belonged, and this feeling informed his work.

One movement in his Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano from 1982, for example, is composed, as he put it, of "an imaginary, synthetic folklore of Latin-American and Balkan elements"; another recalls "the Gypsy music which affected me so strongly as a child."

What, Mr. Ligeti asked himself, is being expressed here: "Nostalgia for a homeland that no longer exists?" And there he put his finger on something: home is not just a place, but also a time.

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