1923 – Born 28 May in Dicsöszentmárton (now called Tîrnaveni), Transylvania (Romania).
1941 – Graduate from secondary school in Klausenburg (Transylvania).
1941–1943 – Study of composition with Ferenc Farkas at the Klausenburg Conservatory.
1942–1943 – Studies with Pál Kadosa in Budapest.
1945–1949 – Studies with Sándor Veress, Pál Járdányi, Ferenc Farkas and Lajos Bárdos at the Budapest Academy of Music.
1945–1946 – Idegen földön.
1946 – Magány.
1949–1950 – Ballade und Tanz.
1950–1956 – Lecturer at the Budapest Academy of Music.
1951–1953 – Musica Ricercata for piano.
1953 – Pápaine; Omaggio a Frescobaldi; Ricercar for organ; Sechs Bagatellen.
1953–1954 – Streichquartett Nr. 1; Métamorphoses nocturnes.
1956 – Flees to Austria after the uprising in Hungary.
1957–1958 – Free–lance work at the studio for electronic music of the West German Radio in Cologne.
1957 – Glissandi–electronic composition.
1958 – Artikulation–electronic composition .
1958–1959 – Apparitions for orchestra (world premiere 1960 IGNM–festival Cologne).
1959–1969 – Residence in Vienna.
1959–1972 – Lecturer at the Darmstadt Music Courses.
1961–1971 – Visiting professor at the Stockholm Music Academy.
1961 – Composition course in Madrid; Atmosphères; Fragment for chamber orchestra.
1961–1962 – Volumina for organ.
1962 – Composition course at the Gaudeamus Foundation in Bilthoven (Netherlands); Poème symphonique for 100 metronome; Aventures.
1962–1965 – Nouvelles Aventures.
1963 – Composition course in Bilthoven and at the Folkwangschule in Essen (Germany).
1964 – Composition course at the Folkwangschule in Essen (Germany) and in Jyväskylä (Finland); Member of the Swedish Academy of Music, Stockholm.
1965 – Composition course in Jyväskylä.
1966 – Lux aeterna; Konzert for violoncello and orchestra.
1967 – Ligeti becomes an Austrian citizen. Lontano for orchestra; 1. Etüde.
1968 – Continuum for cembalo; Streichquartett Nr. 2; Zehn Stücke für Bläserquintett.
1968–1969 – Ramifications.
1969 – Member of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. 2. Etüde for organ coulée.
1969–1973 – Residence in Berlin and Vienna.
1969–1970 – Scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Organization (DAAD), Berlin. Kammerkonzert.
1971 – Member of the Freie Akademie der Künste, Hamburg.
1972 – Composer in residence at Stanford University, California. Doppelkonzert for flute, oboe und orchestra.
1972–1973 – Clocks and Clouds.
1973–1989 – Professor at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst Hamburg.
Since 1973 – Residence in Hamburg and Vienna.
1973 – Composition course at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood (Massachusetts).
1973–1974 –San Francisco Polyphony for orchestra.
1974 – Composition course at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena.
1974–1977 – Le grand Macabre (world premiere Stockholm 1978).
1976 – Rondeau; Monument–Selbstportrait–Bewegung 3 pieces for 2 pianos.
1978 – Member of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste, Munich. Hungarian Rock for cembalo; Passacaglia ungherese for cembalo.
1979 – Composition course in Aix–en–Provence.
1982 – Trio for violin, horn and piano; Drei Phantasien nach Friedrich Hölderlin; Magyar Etüdök (Hungarian Etudes).
1984 – Honorary member of the American Academy and Institue of Arts and Letters.
1985 – Etudes pour piano Premier livre 1–6.
1988 – Konzert for piano and orchestra; Nonsens Madrigals.
1989 – Etudes pour piano Deuxième livre 7–8.
1990 – Member of the Austrian Art Senate (Österreichischer Kunstsenat). Etudes pour piano Deuxième livre 9.
1991 – Loop for viola solo.
1992 – Member of the Hungarian Academy for Literature and Art (Széchenyi Iroldami és Mûvészsti Akadémia). Mysteries of the Macabre Collage for orchestra; Konzert for violin and orchestra.
1993 – Full Member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (Academia Scientiarum et Artium Europaea).
1994 – Member of the Club of Budapest.
1996 – Pièces Electronique No. 3.
1998–1999 – Hamburgisches Konzert for horn solo and chamber orchestra.
2000 – Síppal, dobbal, nádihegedüvel/Mit Pfeifen, Trommeln, Schilfgeigen/
With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles.
2006 – György Ligeti dies in Vienna on 12 June 2006.
Each and every composition is a document of its time. In the case of Apparitions and Atmosphères, the two orchestral works that represent the oeuvre of György Ligeti in the catalogue of Universal Edition, this statement is especially valid.
Apparitions (1958/1959) and Atmosphères (1961) document the composer’s preoccupations after his flight from Hungary, the first steps (apart from some electronic pieces such as Artikulation) in the direction which was to make him one of the leading lights of the international avant-garde within a short space of time.
Furthermore, Apparitions and Atmosphères are also milestones in the history of music following World War II. They have lost none of their stringency half a century after they were written.
At the same time, both works are documents of the originality and the sheer joy of experimenting of a musician living behind the “Iron Curtain”: Ligeti envisaged them in Budapest, the vision of the music occurred to him on nightly walks in Buda Castle (the title of the first version of Apparitions was “Víziók”). He may well have regarded the chances of their realisation as Utopian.
Ligeti’s name is also linked in the UE catalogue to that of his great paragon, Béla Bartók (“I was a Bartók epigon” – he admitted freely in discussing his early music), as author of a foreword to the latter’s String Quartet No 5. Ligeti had an analytical mind. If he had not become a composer, he would surely have made a successful scientist. All his life, he retained his natural curiosity for the latest developments in fractal geometry and other disciplines. Some of his closest friends were scientists, and it is no coincidence that one of the artists he admired most was Maurits Escher.
György Ligeti was a political man. As a survivor of the Holocaust (he lost his father and his brother and escaped death by a hairbreadth), he was an uncompromising opponent of dictatorships of any colour. Before his emigration, he lived through Stalinism in Hungary and experienced the way he was robbed of his artistic freedom. Once in the West, he became a father figure for his colleagues who had stayed behind: they sent him their scores for his comments and held his advice in high esteem.
György Ligeti died in 2006. His music has been experiencing none of the transitional ebb that so many creators are victims of after their death: his works continue to be programmed as a matter of course – as is due a true master.