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  • Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre
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Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre


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Audio CD, March 23, 1999
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Product Details

  • Performer: Derek Lee Ragin, London Sinfonietta Voices, Charlotte Hellekant, Jard Van Nes, Sibylle Ehlert, et al.
  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
  • Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Composer: Gyorgy Ligeti
  • Audio CD (March 23, 1999)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • ASIN: B00000ICMU
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,447 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Car Horn Prelude / Autohupen-Vorspiel Prélude aux klaxons
2. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Dies irae'
3. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Away, you swagpot!'
4. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Shut up!'
5. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Oh ...!' - 'Amanda! Can do no more!'
6. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Ha-ha-ha-ha! Hey! Give me my requisites'
7. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 1: 'Melting snow is thy breast'
8. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Second Car Hor Prelude / Zweites Autohupen-Vorspiel / DeuxiÃ..me prélude aux klaxons
9. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 2: 'One! Two! Three! Five!'
10. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 2: 'Shapley and attractive figure'
See all 14 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: Doorbell Prelude
2. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Arse- licker, arse- kisser!'
3. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Posture exercises!'
4. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Tsk...' - 'Psssst!'
5. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Ahh! ... Secret cypher!'
6. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Hurray, hurray! My wife is dead'
7. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: Nekrotzar's Entrance
8. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Woe! Ooh!' - 'For the day of wrath'
9. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'There's no need to fear'
10. Le Grand Macabre, opera: Scene 3.: 'Up!'- 'Drink!' - 'Up!'
See all 15 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

It seems oddly fitting that 1999--a year marked by Y2K paranoia and doom-and-gloom trainspotters--is the year in which Sony chose to release this brilliantly charged version of György Ligeti's Le Grande Macabre, the Hungarian master's comic tale of apocalypse and "what me worry?" Originally composed between 1975 and 1977, Macabre follows the various bumbling citizens of "Breughelland" during "anytime." Problem is, their time is about to end, thanks to grim reaper Nekrotzar (played with deadpan grotesquerie by bass-baritone Willard White), who, aided by his bumbling servant Piet the Pot, has decided to lay waste to the world. Of course, nothing ever goes quite right. A pair of indistinguishable lovers (including the radiant mezzo of Charlotte Hellekant) sleeps right through the Armageddon, and the Great Macabre is reduced to asking himself, "Have I not just laid to waste the entire goddamned world?" in the hilarious final scene. Esa-Pekka Salonen's live recording zeroes in on the score's sardonic humor as well as its postmodern raidings. Compared to the first Macabre on disc--sung in German and not as compact as the revised, English version that Ligeti prepared for the 1997 Salzburg Festival revival--this one is the keeper, with better sound staging, wildly imaginative orchestrations, lucid program notes, and an enjoyably perky English rendition of the original text. Hearing all this perfect craziness--the townspeople mimicking a skipping record as they sing "Our Great Leader" in the third scene, the car horn prelude that leads off the production, the absurdist arguments of the Black and White Ministers--is a comic delight. Here is one of Ligeti's masterpieces--a must for fans of modern opera--in its full glory. --Jason Verlinde

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By drabauer on February 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I will not bother defending Le Grande Macabre for those dismayed at how it differs from earlier Ligeti; having studied the works from 1943 on, I hear a continuity that others may miss. Know only that the opera was influenced by the visual arts of Bosch, Brueghel and Saul Steinberg, the operas of Monteverdi and Verdi, the absurdist theater of Alfred Jarry, and the films of Charlie Chaplin. In other words, be forewarned!

Having not seen the recent San Francisco production I can only imagine the wild visuals, but the performers in this spanking new edition are spot on. Ligeti has considerably abridged and tightened the opera (first written in 1974-77), and has greatly refined his original vision (the composer has even gone on record preferring the English libretto to the original German.) The Wergo original is of interest primarily to completists.

Let me just add that history is everywhere present in LGM; this is the closest Ligeti's come to a "collage" work, which seems completely appropriate given the darkly surreal subject matter. He would never produce something quite like this again, but let us hope against hope that he finishes the long running operaplanned on the Alice books. For more about Ligeti, I recommend the Richard Steinitz work and life (although the earlier bios by Griffiths, Toop and Burde are great as well).
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Vladimir on July 25, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Ligeti's opera "Le Grand Macabre" based on the ballade of Michel de Ghelderode is a great musical achievement of our time. This version by Salonen, sung in English, is a reference. Salonen is a young enthusiastic conductor who loves the score (he told once something about composing and opera, after conducting Ligeti's Grand Macabre) and it is an authentic gift hearing Philharmonia Orchestra under his rules. In the casting, this version counts with a shining and lovely Amanda (Laura Claycomb),a funny Mescalina (Jard van Ness) and a really dark (literally) Nekrotzar (Willard White). Only Gepopo (Sybille Ehlert) is not fully convincent. But it is delightful hearing her, in any case, singing "Stern measures".
I am not agree with the stern reviews of some colleagues in this page. This Opera by Ligeti is magical, funny and delicious, as "The magic flute" of Mozart, for example. The music is powerful (the entrance of Nekrotzar, Astradamors' torture...) and filled with beauty (Gepopo's "misteries").
I love this opera and those of Penderecki, and I consider them the best works in their genre of the last 50 years.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Audio CD
I love Ligeti's music and I never fully understood why. I don't care for most contemporary composers, but I feel that he always has something very interesting to say and it goes way beyond the cacophony normally associated with contemporary music. To be frank there's enough dissonance in this work to make most people cringe, but, again, there's something to the way he approaches music and sound that elevates his works way above the banal or ugly and irritating, like Cage and Carter. Like Penderecki, Ligeti has his own musical vocabulary and he's not afraid to either use it or add to it when necessary. The result in "Le Grand Macabre" is a surrealistic soundscape that compliments the equally surrealistic tale of an imaginary kingdom and it's odd inhabitants. Truly bizarre and, definitely, not for everyone. Nevertheless, a truly great work. As original and wonderfully bizarre as one could only hope for. The performance is wonderful and most cohesive. Not an easy thing to accomplish with a work of this magnitude and complexity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Schell on December 18, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Though you can't tell from the outside, this is the 8th and final volume in Sony's Ligeti Edition. It's also the only currently available recording of the revised (1997) version of Ligeti's only opera, captured from a live performance conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Chatelet in Paris. As of March 2010, Sony has made the entire Ligeti Edition series available in an inexpensive nine-CD box set that includes these two CDs, so you should probably just buy that set instead of this one if you're interested in Ligeti's music.

Le Grand Macabre, by far the lengthiest of Ligeti's works, represented a culmination of Ligeti's work to date. After this he seemed to feel that he could not go on rewriting works like Atmosphères and Aventures, and like Beethoven, he fell relatively silent for a few years before resuming in a more neoclassical vein with the horn trio. Alas, although I enjoy experimental theater, and support efforts to extend music theater and other forms of theater beyond simulationism, I've never warmed to Meschke's libretto. Rendered in a more-or-less traditional operatic context (albeit with postmodern music), this setting of Gheldorode's ballade seems more pompous and self-indulgent than surreal or profound. Perhaps this text just isn't the caliber of Beckett, Jarry or Robert Wilson. Or perhaps a less ostentatious theatrical context would better suit the work. But I think that deploying the accoutrements of traditional Western opera to construct a satire of that tradition is probably a losing proposition overall: it's just too "easy" to poke fun of a genre that requires so much suspension of disbelief.
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