György Ligeti, the Quartets

As a child, György Ligeti drew maps of an imaginary world in a notebook. He hid in the attic to read fairytales, the tick-tock of an old clock marking the time, spider webs forming pretty, mortal labyrinths.

He practiced on the old paternal piano, discovered Beethoven’s symphonies, and on the road to the conservatory, heard gypsy music wafting from taverns. He liked these two types of music, one highbrow, the other popular, which did not conflict, answering each other harmoniously or comically in his mind. Little György dreamt. Later on, he was a young composer. The political regime of his country tightened; culture was placed under supervision, and musical inventions or brainwaves were proscribed; novelty was the enemy of the eople. Bartók, the master so admired, fled and later died in exile. Ligeti was forced to write music in an official style, which most often came down to arranging folk tunes for diverse nsembles. In secret, he wrote new, more ambitious works. In 1956, after having been subjected to the yokes of Nazism and then Communism, Ligeti fled at the risk of his life. From he other side of the Wall, he was finally able to write as he saw fit. He discovered a vast world of music – extra-European, electronic, rock, free-jazz – heretofore heard only on the crambled waves of clandestine radios… Progressively, the musical influences were again reconciled in his heart and soul, and from the depths of his memory suddenly appeared his ear imaginary world. He often sought refuge in it, and it is not rare to hear in his works a gypsy violinist who apparently initiated him in the music of the Aka Pygmies, a spring- ounted liquid waltz, or a fanfare of klaxons lost in a Gothic fable.

Ligeti died in 2006, leaving us an essential oeuvre and the image of a free man, attentive to the movements of the world. Q. Béla

Translated by John Tyler Tuttle

All Music
The Béla Quartet has put enormous effort into these performances of Ligeti’s string quartets, and the virtuoso performances are as fresh and vital as they are compelling. Blair Sanderson
Named for the century’s greatest Hungarian, Bela Bartok, Quatuor Bela was formed specifically to play this music and the bleak, spartan intensity of their reading is completely convincing. Where the Casals Quartet smooth off the rough edges and angularities, Quatuor Bela hone them to razor sharpness. (…) 

For those with a particular interest in this music, these carefully researched and heartfelt performances will have special appeal.  AF

The abandon with which the Bélas dig into their strings at the beginning of the First Quartet – just listen to them go ! – tells us we’re in for gutsy, soulful playing. Philip Clark

Music web international
Aeon’s audio is excellent. In fact, in engineering terms it arguably beats all competition. (…). In purely musical terms, the Quatuor Béla’s Ligeti ranks with the best – and perhaps even higher. Byzantion

Q2 Music Album of the Week for March 3, 2014
The ensemble is in astounding command of the music, retaining an extraordinary on-edge energy even during quiet moments (the dynamic the most defines the composition).



György LIGETI, « Métamorphoses Nocturnes », String quartet no. 1
György LIGETI, String quartet no. 2
György LIGETI, Sonata for solo cello


May 29, 2009, L’Atelier du Plateau (Paris)


November 2013, AEON/OUTHERE


Press cuts (PDF)
To listen


This programme was premiered in Paris (Atelier du Plateau).  It was subsequently performed in Clermont-Ferrand (La Comédie), Agence Culturelle de Dordogne Périgord, Chambéry (Espace Malraux – Scène Nationale), Lyon (Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse), Bourges (Maison de la Culture), Festival des Quatuors en Pays de Fayence, Tarbes (Le Parvis), Angers (Château) and also toured Colombia. 

A new variation of Ligeti’s Métamorphoses Nocturnes, Lüne 3000, will be presented near Paris, at Le Triton, and in Grenoble for the festival ‘Les Détours de Babel’, together with jazz musicians, pianist Roberto Negro and saxophonist Emile Parisien.