Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Sad Day

Today Ligeti died. I cannot help but feel a personal loss: he was perhaps my favorite living composer. I've always thought of him as something of a carnival barker, a ringmaster presiding over a world of hysterical, phantasmagoric, vivid sound, posessed of something too rare: a thoroughly original voice. His music--even the early, thorny string quartets--always bristles with quirk, never satisfied with simply being "in a camp." He always grew; he always changed; and he always mis-heard whatever was around him in the most deft and fascinating way.

For years I have kept a mental talley of favorite operas that will never be written, to the anguish of all of us who love music: Stravinsky's collaboration with Dylan Thomas; Benhamin Britten's incomplete Anna Kerenina; Copland's discussed collaboration with Thornton Wilder; whatever Chekov and Tchaikovsky might have done together; Beethoven's Bacchus; Wagner's life of Jesus; Brahms'. Now I, sadly, will add Ligeti's Alice in Wonderland to the list--unless someone out there knows something I don't.

Now, as I type, I am listening to those honking carhorns at the beginning of the recently departed composer's operatic masterpiece Le Grand Macabre and smiling. Music this mad, this ingenious, this demented, deserves to be loved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never read your blog before, and honestly, I read this one because it started with a seemingly pompous statement-but I'm really impressed with both your perspective and your writing- excellent!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Stephen V Funk said...

Nice Ligeti tribute... I linked to it from my own... cheers

6:36 PM  
Blogger Daniel Wolf said...

Do you happen to know how far along he was with the "Alice" opera? He spent decades thinking and talking up (if not sketching) a "Tempest", before dropping it (at one point he said that he couldn't figure out how realize the storm, at another point he just pleaded age) for "Alice". A recent book of interviews with Ligeti ("Träumen sie in Farbe? Im Gespräch mit Eckhard Roelcke" von György Ligeti und Eckhard Roelcke) doesn't exactly give the impression that the opera was an active project.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Thank you Anonymous, for seeing through the pomposity of my opening line--or for realizing the irony, because honestly, that's what it is. But then again, you don't know me...

5:09 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I have no idea how far along he was on the opera. I know that a decade or so ago, a friend--composer Oliver Schneller--was toying with the idea of writing an Alice opera, and was horrified to find that Ligeti was doing one. Years later, I read a few books about Ligeti (including, though I am not sure, the one you mention in translation), and all of them talked about the project as one of very active speculation on the composer's part. So I've no idea if he ever wrote a note. But it's nice to consider what he would have done.

5:12 AM  
Blogger OhMyTrill said...

I always hoped to meet him someday since I adore his music so! But I guess I will have to be contect just to have played it in the past...and to play it even more in the future!

I didn't know he was writing an opera based on Alice in Wonderland...I'm sure if it had been finished it would have been nothing short of amazing.

12:13 PM  

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