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Universal Edition - György Ligeti – Atmosphères

György Ligeti
Atmosphères

Year of composition: 1961
Scored for: for orchestra
Composer: György Ligeti
Instrumentation: 4 4 4 4 - 6 4 4 1 - pno(2 perc. players), str(7 7 5 5 4)
Instrumentation details:
4 flutes (+4 picc)
4 oboes
4 clarinets in Bb (4th +cl(Eb))
3 bassoons
contrabassoon
6 horns in F
4 trumpets in C
4 trombones
tuba
piano (2 percussion players)
violin I (1st desk)
violin I (2nd desk)
violin I (3rd desk)
violin I (4th desk)
violin I (5th desk)
violin I (6th desk)
violin I (7th desk)
violin II (1st desk)
violin II (2nd desk)
violin II (3rd desk)
violin II (4th desk)
violin II (5th desk)
violin II (6th desk)
violin II (7th desk)
viola (1st desk)
viola (2nd desk)
viola (3rd desk)
viola (4th desk)
viola (5th desk)
violoncello (1st desk)
violoncello (2nd desk)
violoncello (3rd desk)
violoncello (4th desk)
violoncello (5th desk)
contrabass (1st desk)
contrabass (2nd desk)
contrabass (3rd desk)
contrabass (4th desk)
Table of Contents:
Atmosphères
Commissioned by: Kompositionsauftrag des Südwestfunks, Baden-Baden, 1961
Duration: 9′
Dedication: In memoriam Mátyás Seiber
 
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Audio Excerpt

Atmosphères

World Première

Location: Donaueschingen / Germany
Date: 22.10.1961
Orchestra: SWF-Sinfonieorchester
Conductor: Hans Rosbaud

Work Introduction

Atmosphères famously overturns all traditional categories of Western classical music. There is absolutely no discernible melody, harmony is reduced to the drifting of saturated chromatic clusters, and pulse – or any sense of normal rhythmical articulation – is entirely absent. All habitual structural sign-posts are also missing as is any relationship to standard forms, despite the ghost of a recapitulation towards the work’s end.

Instead the listener is confronted with a slow-motion succession of textures, one oozing into the other, where the instrumental sonority seems to have more in common with the dissolves and hums of electronic music than that of a normal symphony orchestra. Tiny traces of influence can just be discerned – perhaps Debussy, a little Richard Strauss, certainly Bartók – though Ligeti’s vision is of startling, indeed radical, originality.

Another striking element is the work’s independence from dogma which prevailed widely in the contemporary music world of the early 1960s: gone are the percussive, pointillistic textures of serialism, and widespread taboos – like the banning of octaves – are ignored. In the use of solo parts for all the strings, and the divisions of the conductor’s beat into separate metrical strands, the influence of 1950s Xenakis can perhaps be discerned – though the artistic sensibility could not be more different.

Beyond such stylistic concerns the ear can take immediate delight in the way the work moves, how the sound surface glides across registers with subtle shifts in pace and beguiling transformations in timbre. The music flows like lava, buzzes like a swarm of bees, or glimmers like a multitude of tiny Aeolian harps. Commencing with an immense, suffocating blanket of static sound, Atmosphères traverses an almost unbroken arc before eerily drifting into complete silence at its end.

This apparently seamless web of sound is, paradoxically, a collage of independent, discreet compositional modules, all of differing duration and subtly contrasting purpose; these are linked and superimposed in a technique akin to the montage involved in the creation of tape music. Could this powerful degree of internal structure – tied to the highly refined and detailed instrumental writing – explain why this is virtually the only piece of “texture music” from the 1960s which has survived and entered the repertoire? Perhaps it’s simpler to say that Ligeti was a poet in sound of genius, and that this work – a Requiem, like so much of his oeuvre from this period – strikes a very deep note in most listeners from the first hearing. Regardless, there is no question that Atmosphères is one of the most extraordinary utterances from any composer in the 20th century.

George Benjamin, September 2013


When György Ligeti’s Atmosphères premièred at the 1961 Donaueschingen Festival, it caused a sensation. The work’s static iridescence so fascinated its listeners that they demanded an immedediate repeat performance. Ligeti had flung the door wide open to new worlds of sound and structure. Some idea of how revolutionary his work was may be gained from a glance at the study score: narrow and tall, it looks like a miniature skyscraper, with up to 87 staves piled on top of one another, each of them representing one instrumental part. Even now, Ligeti’s soundscape has lost none of its overwhelming effect, having attained popularity through its use as film music for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Listening Lab – Materials for communicating music

Winner of the Music Teacher Award for Excellence 2015 in the category 'Best Print Resource' and Winner "Deutscher Musikeditionspreis BEST EDITION 2015".

  • Edition type: book
  • Series: Listening Lab
  • Language: German; English
  • UE26316
  • ISBN: 978-3-7024-7223-8
  • ISMN: 979-0-008-08554-3
EUR 39,95

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Study score – Atmosphères

This is the study score edition of György Ligeti's second piece for orchestra "Atmosphères", composed in 1961.

  • for orchestra
  • Edition type: study score
  • Edition info: Suitable for study purposes only.
  • UE11418
  • ISBN: 978-3-7024-1691-1
  • ISMN: 979-0-008-02380-4
EUR 35,95

Prices incl. VAT plus shipping costs

Pay by credit card, PayPal and direct bank transfer (in some countries)


full score - Atmosphères

Atmosphères
  • for orchestra
  • Edition type: full score

Future Performances

19.10.2017
Location: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (NL), Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Conductor: Peter Eötvös


20.10.2017
Location: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (NL), Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Conductor: Peter Eötvös


11.04.2018
Location: Grande Salle Pierre Boulez, Paris (F), Orchestra: Orchestre de Paris, Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi


12.04.2018
Location: Grande Salle Pierre Boulez, Paris (F), Orchestra: Orchestre de Paris, Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi


09.05.2018
Location: Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (NL), Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Conductor: Daniele Gatti

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