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This work was commissioned by the Holland Festival for the Schönberg Ensemble. The concepts for generating musical light effects are radicalised, and rhythmic patterns are used in a more expansive way. At the outset, the composition develops from a six-pitch aggregate which permutes constantly within each of the orchestra groups (winds, brass, percussion and strings), given new colour accentuation through voice exchange and change of position. This permutation procedure is also used individually in every orchestra group. Asynchronicity predominates simultaneously among the groups; piano, celesta, harp and vibraphone (as instruments with “built-in decrescendo”) are active between the other orchestra groups, pulsing through large portions of the composition with rapid pitch sequences. The pitch inventory broadens in the course of the work (which lasts ca. 30 minutes); at the same time, the continuous voice mixing is joined by rhythmical mixing with relatively rigidly motionless chords among the orchestra groups. Feldmann used this compositional technique in a way analogous to the method of producing Turkish carpets in the 19th century, in which the patterns were hooked together with innumerable tiny loops, resulting in irregularities due to the nature of the materials used. No sonic shape seems untransformed. They are newly colourised – even later, when discrete groups of bars are repeated ever more frequently. These repetitions are varied mostly by marginal differentiations, not simply “do it again.” The music attains its inexorable self-absorption through a mixture of orchestration and minuscule rhythmical shifts when forming chordal sounds. There are no leaps, no margins (like many of Rothko’s pictures) – there is only the limit of the composition’s beginning and end. Feldmann died on 3 September 1987 in Buffalo New York, only a few months after finishing For Samuel Beckett. Martin Hufner

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Begun between July and September 1910 in Toblach, Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 remained a fragment; however, the surviving manuscript provides indications of the composition’s form and content. The autograph sketch lays out all the symphony’s essentials and all five movements are present in the short score.The first movement, an adagio, and the third, called Purgatorio, were premiered on 12 October 1924 by Franz Schalk at the Vienna State Opera; Ernst Krenek had prepared and completed the musical materials. The full score of those two movements was not published until 1951.This basic source material provides a clear view of the symphony’s fundamental structure; in its style, the work continues that of the 9th and, in some phrases, embarks on uncharted territory beyond that. This is especially true of the Adagio, enriched by its harmony, with its advanced modulations and chromatics; note bars 203-208, where a garish, dissonant chord of nine pitches builds up (repeated like a quote in the finale). The unmistakeable expressive power in this passage corresponds to rhythmic innovations which anticipate Stravinsky’s “emancipation of rhythm.”Overstepping the traditional limits of emotional radicalism, this Adagio is certainly the summit of Mahler’s late work – more so than the Abschied movement of Das Lied von der Erde and the finale of his 9gh symphony. It is a written-out deliverance, a farewell. (To complete the picture, we may note the marginal remarks on his autograph – some of the most personal he ever left – and that his marriage to Alma was disintegrating at the time). 

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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.

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