György Kurtág: Complete Works for Ensemble and Choir

Asko | Schönberg, Netherlands Radio Choir, Reinbert de Leeuw

EN / DE
Recorded in Amsterdam’s Musikgebouw and Haarlem’s Philharmonie between March 2013 and July 2016, this 3-CD Set is a milestone in the documentation of Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s work and also a labour of love. It brings together all of Kurtàg’s works for ensemble and for ensemble and choir. The insightful and precise performances bear witness to extensive preparation by the dedicated Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble. Conductor Reinbert de Leeuw speaks of “learning Kurtág’s oeuvre step by step, and performing these pieces repeatedly over a period of twenty years.” De Leeuw consulted extensively with György and Márta Kurtág before and after each session: “There were moments when I was overwhelmed at first hearing”, says the famously-demanding Kurtág, “and we could embrace the result immediately. But sometimes we were critical. The fact that Reinbert always listened to our remarks and re-recorded fragments or even whole pieces makes this publication authentic.” Works heard here are presented in chronological order of composition, beginning with the Four Capriccios (1959-1970, rev. 1993) and continuing with Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky (1975), Grabstein für Stephan (1978-79, rev. 1989), Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova (1976-80), …quasi una fantasia… (1987-88), Op. 27 No. 2 Double Concerto (1989-90), Samuel Beckett: What is the Word (1991), Songs of Despair and Sorrow (1980-1994), Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova (1997-2008), Colindă-Baladă (2010), and Brefs Messages (2011). Extensive CD booklet includes all song texts with translations, an interview with Reinbert de Leeuw, liner notes by Wolfgang Sandner and Paul Griffith, and a statement by György Kurtág.
Aufgenommen zwischen März 2013 und Juli 2016 im Amsterdamer Musikgebouw und in der Philharmonie von Haarlem, stellt dieses 3-CD-Set einen Meilenstein in der Dokumentation des Werks des ungarischen Komponisten György Kurtág dar. Hier sind alle Werke Kurtágs für Ensemble sowie für Ensemble und Chor versammelt. Die kundigen und präzisen Darbietungen legen von der intensiven Vorbereitungsarbeit des Ensemble Asko|Schönberg Zeugnis ab. Dirigent Reinbert de Leeuw weist darauf hin, man habe „Kurtágs Oeuvre Schritt für Schritt studiert und diese Stücke über einen Zeitraum von zwanzig Jahren wieder und wieder aufgeführt.“ De Leeuw beriet sich intensiv mit György und Márta Kurtág vor und nach jeder Aufnahmesitzung. „Es gab Momente, in denen ich schon beim ersten Hören überwältigt war“, sagt der als anspruchsvoll bekannte Kurtág, „und wo wir das Resultat sofort annehmen konnten. Aber mitunter hatten wir Kritik. Die Tatsache, dass Reinbert stets auf unsere Anmerkungen hörte und Fragmente oder gar ganze Stücke nochmals einspielte, macht diese Veröffentlichung authentisch.“
Die hier zu hörenden Werke werden chronologisch nach Kompositionsdatum präsentiert, beginnend mit den Four Capriccios (1959-1970, rev. 1993) und gefolgt von Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky (1975), Grabstein für Stephan (1978-79, rev. 1989), Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova (1976-80), …quasi una fantasia… (1987-88), Op. 27 No. 2 Double Concerto (1989-90), Samuel Beckett: What is the Word (1991), Songs of Despair and Sorrow (1980-1994), Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova (1997-2008), Colindă-Baladă (2010), und Brefs Messages (2011).
Das ausführliche Booklet enthält alle Liedtexte mit Übersetzungen, ein Interview mit Reinbert de Leeuw, Begleittexte von Wolfgang Sandner und Paul Griffiths sowie eine Anmerkung von György Kurtag.
Featured Artists Recorded

2013-2016, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, Amsterdam

Original Release Date

23.06.2017

  • CD 1
  • Four Capriccios Op. 9
    (István Bálint, György Kurtág)
  • 1Párizs I - Musée de Cluny: La Dame à la Licorne01:38
  • 2Párizs II - Tour Saint-Jacques02:34
  • 3Nyelvlecke (Language lesson)01:48
  • 4Ars poetica02:36
  • Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky Op. 11
    (János Pilinszky, György Kurtág)
  • 5Alkohol02:58
  • 6In Memoriam F.M. Dosztojevszkij01:24
  • 7Hölderlin00:42
  • 8Verés02:56
  • 9Grabstein für Stephan Op. 15c
    (György Kurtág)
    09:14
  • Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova Op. 17
    (Rimma Dalos, György Kurtág)
  • 10I. Loneliness: In a space of...01:50
  • 11I. Loneliness: The day has fallen...02:32
  • 12II. A Little Erotic: Heat01:44
  • 13II. A Little Erotic: Two interlaced bodies...03:17
  • 14II. A Little Erotic: Why should I not squeal like a pig...00:41
  • 15II. A Little Erotic: Chastushka01:15
  • 16III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: You took my heart...01:36
  • 17III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Great misery...01:18
  • 18III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Pebbles00:55
  • 19III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: A slender needle00:49
  • 20III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: I know, my loved one...00:54
  • 21III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Autumn flowers fading...01:35
  • 22III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: In you I seek my salvation...00:33
  • 23III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Your disappearances...01:03
  • 24III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Without you00:22
  • 25III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Love me...00:43
  • 26III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Retailiation00:40
  • 27III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: A plaything00:57
  • 28III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: Why did you utter...00:33
  • 29III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: In the cloudburst...00:43
  • 30III. Bitter Experience - Delight and Grief: For everything... (Epilogue)01:16
  • CD 2
  • ...quasi una fantasia... Op. 27 No.1
    (György Kurtág)
  • 1Introduzione01:51
  • 2Presto minaccioso e lamentoso (Wie ein Traumeswirren). Molto agitato, sempre pppp01:32
  • 3Recitativo. Grave, disperato01:50
  • 4Aria - Adagio molto. Lontano, clamo, appena sentito03:43
  • Op. 27 No. 2 - Double Concerto
    (György Kurtág)
  • 5Poco allegretto - L'istesso tempo (quasi più mosso) - Presto agitato10:53
  • 6Adagio - Largo07:09
  • 7Samuel Beckett: What is the Word Op. 30b
    (Samuel Beckett, György Kurtág)
    16:21
  • CD 3
  • Songs of Despair and Sorrow Op. 18
  • 1So weary, so wretched...
    (Mikhail Lermontov, György Kurtág)
    03:24
  • 2Night, an empty street, a lamp, a drug-store
    (Aleksandr Blok, György Kurtág)
    06:13
  • 3Blue evening
    (Sergei Esenin, György Kurtág)
    01:38
  • 4Where can I go to in this January?
    (Osip Mandelstam, György Kurtág)
    02:33
  • 5Crucifixion
    (Anna Akhmatova, György Kurtág)
    02:50
  • 6It's time
    (Marina Tsvetayeva, György Kurtág)
    02:45
  • Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova Op. 41
    (Anna Akhmatova, György Kurtág)
  • 7Pushkin01:30
  • 8To Aleksandr Blok02:49
  • 9Dirge - Alexander Blok's funeral03:34
  • 10Voronezh - To O. M[andelstam]03:32
  • 11Colindă-Baladă Op. 46
    (Traditional, György Kurtág)
    17:14
  • Brefs Messages Op. 47
    (György Kurtág)
  • 12Fanfare01:11
  • 13Versetto: Temptavit Deus Abraham01:11
  • 14Ligatura Y03:31
  • 15Bornemisza Péter: Az hit...01:45
György Kurtag is now the grand old man of European music, and perhaps the greatest living composer. He is the last survivor of the postwar generation of Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono and Ligeti, but he established his voice much later than most of his contemporaries […] This magnificent set brings together some of Kurtág’s greatest achievements and is performed with devotional precision and commitment by the ensemble Asko | Schönberg, conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw. […] De Leeuw, his ensemble and the Netherlands Radio Choir (in the choral works) are fabulously lucid guides. But there are outstanding solo performances, too […] The set is fastidiously presented; Kurtág’s exquisitely precise music, wasting nothing, demands that attention.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian (Five stars)
 
 
A definitive, three-disc set of the composer’s complete works involving small instrumental ensembles. Some, like the delicately intense ‘Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova’ and the ‘Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova’, also involve solo singers. Others, including the challenging ‘Songs of Despair and Sorrow’, bring in the virtuoso Netherlands Radio Choir. The skilled musicians of Asko | Schönberg, directed by Reinbert de Leeuw, excel in all.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times
 
Un génie toujours aussi moderne […] voici réunie pour la première fois l’intégralité de l’œuvre pour chœur et ensemble d’un compositeur dontl’importance n’a d’égale que la discrétion . György Kurtág, fraichement nonagénaire, a creusé patiemment son sillon, à l’écart des modes et des courants. […] Reinbert de Leeuw dirige l’ensemble Asko/Schoenberg avec la même diligenece et la même souplesse éloignée des raideurs avant-gardistes que dans son cycle Ligeti.
J.B., Classica
 
Listen to the chamber works packed into this gorgeous three-disc set — an array of instrumental, vocal and choral music all crafted with unerring sensitivity by conductor Reinbert de Leeuw — is to marvel anew at Kurtág’s versatility and range. The solo vocal music boasts its familiar spiky allure, as Kurtág spins improbably sparkling filigree out of the leaps and angular lines of traditional modernism.
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
 
An ideal introduction to the composer’s intricate, dazzling soundworld. For De Leeuw, this was clearly a labour of love and, working closely with the composer, he delivers razor-sharp performances that draw the listener inorexably in. […] With fine choral contributions, demonstration quality sound and presentation, this is an unmissable set.
Guy Weatherall, Classical Music
 
An outstanding set of performances and recordings -    a window into the musical mind of Hungarian composer György Kurtág.
Andrew McGregor, BBC 3
 
Recorded in Amsterdam’s Musikgebouw and Haarlem’s Philharmonie between March 2013 and July 2016, this 3-CD Set is a milestone in the documentation of Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s work, and also a labour of love. It brings together all of Kurtág’s works for ensemble and for ensemble and choir, and the insightful and precise performances bear witness to extensive preparation by the dedicated Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble.
 
In an interview in the CD booklet, conductor Reinbert de Leeuw speaks of “learning Kurtág’s oeuvre step by step, and performing these pieces repeatedly over a period of twenty years.” De Leeuw consulted with György and Márta Kurtág before and after each session: “There were moments when I was overwhelmed at first hearing”, says the famously-demanding Kurtág, “and we could embrace the result immediately. But sometimes we were critical. The fact that Reinbert always listened to our remarks and re-recorded fragments or even whole pieces makes this publication authentic.”
 
Perhaps no contemporary composer enjoys greater respect than György Kurtág – respect for a life of dedication, and for the music that has come out of that life. It is music hard-won, tested not only by the severest self-criticism but also by the difficult and sometimes oppressive circumstances under which Kurtág had to live in early years, and subsequently as a composer insisting on the value and the challenge of art in uncertain times.
 
His music has stimulated great performances, including those documented on ECM New Series – among them Kim Kashkashian’s recordings of the solo music for viola, and the Keller Quartet’s Musik für Streichinstrumente, the Kafka Fragmente performed by András Keller and Juliane Banse as well as Kurtág’s own interpretations of his Játékok (Games), played together with his wife Márta.
 
This new release takes a place with the finest for its intense, gripping recordings of his output involving a small orchestra of soloists. There are songs here, searing and delicate. Also on display is Kurtág’s powerful understanding of the chorus. The works heard in this edition are presented in chronological order of composition, beginning with the Four Capriccios (1959-1970, rev. 1993) and continuing with Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky (1975), Grabstein für Stephan (1978-79, rev. 1989), Messages of the late Miss R. Troussova (1976-80), … quasi una fantasia… (1987-88), Op. 27 No. 2 Double Concerto (1989-90), Samuel Beckett: What is the Word (1991), Songs of Despair and Sorrow (1980-1994), Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova (1997-2008), Colindă-Baladă (2010), and Brefs Messages (2011).
 
Again and again Kurtág’s striking originality is evident. As Reinbert de Leeuw remarks: “I had the privilege of working with great composers of our time, sometimes interpreting every single orchestral work of a composer, like I did with Messiaen. At one point you think you have a pretty good idea of what 20th century music is about. And then comes the music of György Kurtág. That was a real shock for me, completely transforming my perception of music. Kurtág is of the generation of Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Maderna, Cage, Ligeti, and Kagel. The fact that he developed his own voice in relative seclusion and much later than his contemporaries may have contributed to my shock. I was completely overwhelmed by the simple means Kurtág needs to create his own musical universe. How is it possible that just playing the open strings of a guitar, as in the opening bars of Grabstein für Stephan, followed by the pianino taking over these chords, is breathtaking? I can’t think of another composer having had that impact on me.”
 
György Kurtág was born on 19 February 1926 at Lugos (Lugoj in Romanian) in the Bánát region of Romania. He has been a Hungarian citizen since 1948; since 2002 he holds Hungarian-French dual citizenship. Kurtág began his studies at the Budapest Academy of Music in 1946, where his professors included Pál Kadosa, Leó Weiner, Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas.
 
Kurtág has been the recipient of many awards and prizes. They include the Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the Grawemeyer Award, the Sonning Music Prize, and the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale for Lifetime Achievement. In February 2017 György Kurtág celebrated both his 91st birthday and his 70th wedding anniversary. To commemorate these events, he and his pianist wife Márta were presented with the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award at a ceremony in Budapest.